Crooks Hope You Do This When Writing Checks in 2020

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A woman writes a check to pay bills

Here’s a simple way to keep scammers at bay this year: Stop abbreviating the number “2020” when filling in the year on a personal check.

Authorities say abbreviating the year — with just the last two digits, “20” — opens the door for fraudsters to manipulate the check for nefarious purposes.

To see how this works, imagine filling out a check with the following as the date: 2/15/20. Since this century begins with the same two numerals, a crook can easily add a couple more that change the year on the check to a date in the past or future:

  • 2/15/2001
  • 2/15/2027

Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, tells USA Today that a scammer might manipulate a check to look like it’s from a previous year in an effort to show that you owed an obligation earlier than you really did — and thus attempt to extract more money from you.

Or, a thief could hold a check with a “20” abbreviation on it, and manipulate the check at a later date — such as in 2021 — to make the check active at that time, Rheingold says.

The best way to nip these potential problems in the bud is simply to write out the full year — 2020 — whenever you write a check this year. For example, February 15, 2020.

Don’t stop at checks, though. USA Today quotes the Facebook page of the East Millinocket Police Department in Maine, which states that writing out the full year “is very sound advice and should be considered when signing any legal or professional document.”

For more tips on keeping fraudsters at bay in 2020 — or in any year — check out “Watch for These 9 Signs of Identity Theft.”

What steps do you take to keep your finances safe? Share your tips in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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