Every year, it’s a struggle to get the subconscious mind to accept the notion of a new year. If you write a check or date a document after the turn of the calendar, for example, you might reflexively write the old year for a few weeks until your brain finally assimilates the fact that it’s 2020 and no longer 2019. Such dating foul-ups are just a standard part of the process of moving from one year to another.
This year there’s another aspect of dating documents that’s been in the news: potential fraud. This story from CNN addresses the issue. According to the article, consumer advocates, auditors, and police departments all are saying that you shouldn’t use the abbreviation/slash approach to writing the date — like, say, 1/5/20 — on documents because a fraudster could get the document and mess with the year by adding digits to the end, so that “1/5/20” becomes “1/5/2019” or “1/5/2021.”
I get the concept, but I’m not clear on how fiddling with the date could practically lead to fraud. The CNN article gives two examples. At some point in the future, you might have a check lying around, dated 1/4/20, that is more than six months old. A crook could take the check, make the date 1/4/2021, so that the check is no longer more than six months old and difficult to cash. Left unexplained is why in the world anyone would have an old, dated, but otherwise incomplete check lying around, and how a fraudster could find it and forge the rest of the writing to scam you.
Here’s the other example from the CNN article:
“Or, let’s say you sign a credit contract — an agreement between a borrower and a lender — and date it 1/4/20. Say you then miss a month or two of payments, and the lender goes to collect the debt that’s owed. Theoretically, they could add “19” to the end of that date and argue that you owe more than a year’s worth of payments.”
It seems like this example raises a more important concern — don’t borrow money from crooked entities that would consciously commit deliberate fraud. I’m guessing that any entity that would be willing to engage in such conduct probably wouldn’t stop at fiddling with the date. In fact, they might send some burly guys to your house ready to take a tire iron to your kneecaps unless you pay up, now.
The CNN article doesn’t give any more plausible examples of potential fraud, saying that it doesn’t want to give crooks any ideas. I appreciate that, because fraudsters are a creative sort, and I appreciate the warning. So when I’m writing the date this year, I’ll write it out in full, and enjoy the fact that by doing so I’m thwarting vaguely defined potential fraud. Even unlikely fraud is better left avoided.