The new year is giving scammers an easy way to forge documents, but you can protect yourself with an easy New Year's resolution: Stop abbreviating the year.
Why? This year's abbreviation is easily changeable and could be used against you. The concern is that scammers could easily manipulate a document dated "1/1/20" into "1/1/2000" or even "1/1/2021."
Writing out the full date "could possibly protect you and prevent legal issues on paperwork," according to Hamilton County, Ohio, Auditor Dusty Rhodes.
While it's early in the year for examples of this kind of fraud to emerge, the threat is real according to Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
In a message emailed to USA TODAY Thursday, Rheingold said scammers could use the method to establish an unpaid debt or to attempt to cash an old check.
"Say you agreed to make payments beginning on 1/15/20. The bad guy could theoretically establish that you began owing your obligation on 1/15/2019, and try to collect additional $$$," Rheingold wrote.
In the future, post-dating could be a problem too. For example, a check dated "1/1/20" could become "1/1/2021" next year, possibly making the uncashed check active again, Rheingold wrote. A similar method could be used for debts that are past the statute of limits.
The solution is easy: There's no harm in writing the full date. Writing the month out can also help.
Write this: January 15, 2020. Not this: 1/15/20.
Police have echoed the advice as well.
"This is very sound advice and should be considered when signing any legal or professional document. It could potentially save you some trouble down the road," the The East Millinocket Police Department in Maine said in a Facebook post.