The start of a new decade means a new opportunity for a crook to scam you out of money but a little extra time and ink can spare consumers from years of hassle.
Consumer analysts are warning that a simple abbreviation of the new year, 2020, could give a crook a time machine. The abbreviation allows anyone to add two digits after the '20 to make the year any date within the century.
Misty Little, an enrolled agent in Grover Beach with over a decade of tax preparation experience, said abbreviating 2020 on legal documents exposes people to fraud.
"Let's say you sign a contract from 2020 to 2021," Little said. "If you don't have it dated, they could alter it for the rest of the century to make it for whatever year they'd like the contract for."
That means signing a document 1-21-20 is risky while 1-21-2020 is safer.
"Let's say you date a check for January 1, 2020 and it's not cashed," Little said. "You reconcile your accounts and no longer have it available in your budget. The person you wrote the check to alters it next January to January 1, 2021 and they're able to deposit it with no red flags to the bank."
When it comes to an agreement with a legally binding term, you may not known the document was altered until next year, when you thought the agreement was ending.
According to Little, it's incredibly difficult to prove the date was altered on a document.
If you discover that a document you signed was altered by an individual, you should contact police and file a report. If you believe the document was altered by a business, contact the California Office of Consumer Protection.
Your best bet, Little said, is spending the extra time and ink to avoid years of hassle.