Seen any posts on social media recently warning you to use the full 2020 date on legal agreements? We’ve noticed a trending ‘legal tip’ recommending that you write the full year out on legal agreements or you might risk exposing yourself to potential fraud.

The risk with writing the year 2020 as the abbreviated form of ‘20’ is that an unscrupulous person could add two digits to the end of the date — making it seem like the document originated in an earlier year, such as 2019 or 2018. 

This could lead to fraud in legal agreements. For example, if you dated a legal agreement with the year ‘20’, a scammer could try to make a claim that you started the period earlier by adding ‘19’ or ‘18’, making your obligations overdue because the document looks as though it started in an earlier year.

Alternatively, if you leave the date as ‘20’ on a cheque and it was not cashed and discarded, then if it was found a year later a fraudster could add the number 21 on the end to make the year 2021 and cash the cheque the following year.

Should you actually be worried, though? Lawyers will tell you to be careful and that it’s best practice to be as safe as possible. 

However, it seems there have been no publicly reported abuses of the abbreviated date so far. It could happen, but it seems unlikely.

A critical few have also pointed out that the same is true of the year 2019 which, when abbreviated to ‘19’, leaves open the years from 1900 to 1999 — arguably a greater scope for fraud on documents. Again, there appear to be no public reports of this happening. Perhaps they only thought of the trick this year?

How exactly this public concern started is unclear, but it’s possible that it could be linked to a simple musing on Twitter gone viral back on the 31st of December last year.

Fortunately, it is very likely that any legal or financial documents that have been dated with the year abbreviated to ‘20’ will have the correct date referenced elsewhere. 

Nevertheless, if you want peace of mind and prefer to be safe than sorry, it can’t hurt to write the full date. Apart from the hand cramps.

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