Abbreviating 2020 on your checks and documents in the new year could make you vulnerable to fraud. Here’s why.

Troy Palmquist is an indie broker in California with more than a decade of experience. His regular column, which covers a range of helpful tips for agents and op-eds on industry happenings, publishes Thursdays on Inman.

Recalling the two-digit-year hysteria of Y2K, everyone from cyber security experts to local police officials are joining together with a New Year’s warning this January: Don’t abbreviate the year on your checks.

For real estate agents, the warnings are even more important because so much of what we do involves signed and dated documents as well as contracts and addenda that involve deadlines, timelines and dates.

Why is everyone so worried about dating your docs with ’20 instead of 2020?

Unlike past years, because 2020 has the same two-number combination at the beginning and end, a document or check dated 1/1/20 could be changed to 1/1/2019 or 2000 or any other year. That could call into question the legitimacy of a document or a check and create problems when trying to verify the information on a contract.

Although some argue that the same could have been said for 2019, since 1/1/19 could be altered to 1999, for example, officials say that the ’20 abbreviation is far more likely to be used, since it can indicate a time in the recent past or even in the future if changed to 2021.

Whether you think it’s overkill or a timely reminder, if you’d rather be safe than sorry, it’s probably a good idea to write the date out more fully this year.

Where did this come from anyway?

The advice about abbreviating 2020 has been credited in most media outlets to the East Millinocket, Maine, police department. It posted the advice on its Facebook page on the evening of Jan. 1, 2020, and from there it was picked up by a number of platforms from local television stations to Forbes and other online publications.

The EMPD, however, credits the advice to George E. Moore Law Office, LLC, located in Celina, Ohio, which posted it on its Facebook page just minutes before.

However, the true author of the advice appears to be Hamilton County, Ohio, auditor Dusty Rhodes (not the wrestler) who shared the advice on Twitter on New Year’s Eve:

“When writing the date in 2020, write the year in its entirety. It could possibly protect you and prevent legal issues on paperwork. Example: If you just write 1/1/20, one could easily change it to 1/1/2017 (for instance) and now your signature is on an incorrect document.”

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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