Social media and news outlets have been warning against using the abbreviated version of the year 2020 when signing financial and legal papers. The concern is that, by not using the full four-digit year in 2020, you could increase your chances for fraud.
What could happen
The idea is, if you filled out a check or legal document using only the last two digits of the year, a fraudster could easily make changes. For example, someone who fails to initially cash a check dated 1/1/20 could change the date to 1/1/2021 and cash it a year after it was written. The result would be an altered—but legally-binding—document containing your signature.
But could it really happen?
If you think this scenario sounds unlikely, then you’re not alone. One article from Forbes mentions public skepticism about the danger, with some people going so far as to call it fear-mongering.
And yet, other news sources have validated the potential threat.
This story from a Cleveland news site includes quotes from experts such as the Better Business Bureau, Homeland Security, and bankers who all say there is reason for concern.
TDS’ own legal team says ‘Yes’
Our legal department agrees that the potential for fraud is real and provided the following guidance to TDS employees:
When hand-signing legal documents, you should avoid using the two-digit abbreviated form of the year. This is especially good practice in 2020 to avoid possible fraud and prevent a third party from changing the date of your signature. For example, signing a contract 1/1/20 might allow a bad actor to add an additional two digits to the date, thereby changing your signature date to 1/1/2017.
The legal effect of this change could be serious; it might appear that you signed up for a service for the past three years and are delinquent in your payment. Of course, the safest signatures are electronic, which time and date stamp your signature; but, if an electronic signature is not available, always sign and date your name with all four digits of this year (i.e., 1/1/2020).
Better safe than sorry
Of course, if a criminal really wants to change a date, they can try no matter what year is written on the paper—but just signing something with “20” leaves the door wide open for fraud. Really, it’s easy to just write out the full year and save yourself any potential hassle in the future.
Guest blogger: Vickie Lubner-Webb with Missy Kellor