Emerging Threats

Check-date fraud: Date your checks “2020” — here’s why

Warning: How you date your checks in 2020 could make you vulnerable to fraud.

That’s why some law enforcement agencies have warned consumers to include the full year — 2020 — when they take out their checkbooks and write a check. The same advice goes for dating other financial documents, such as loan papers.

Here’s an example.

When you write a check, you include the month, the day, and the year. You might abbreviate the date like this:

“1/6/20.” That’s a short-hand way of writing “January 6, 2020.”

But here’s the problem: Fraudsters could easily change the year by adding two digits. For instance, the date —"1/6/20” — could be changed to “1/6/2021” or “1/6/2019.”

The safer approach to dating the check would be to write out the full year, according to authorities. The date would look like this:

“1/6/2020.” That way, fraudsters would have a harder time changing the year.

Is the risk of check-date fraud great? Probably not. But taking precautions now could save you time and effort later if a fraud were to occur.

Types of check-date fraud and document fraud

Here are two ways scammers might be able commit fraud by changing the date on a check or a financial document.

Freshening a stale check

If someone found a check you wrote and dated with a two-digit year, but didn’t send, they could potentially cash the check fraudulently.

How? Say you dated a check “1/10/20,” then forgot about the check. If someone found that check and added “21” to the year, they might be able to fraudulently cash the check.

Changing the date on a credit contact

If you signed a credit contract with an unscrupulous vendor, and dated the contract using a two-digit year, for example, “1/10/20”.

If you missed a few payments, and the company wanted to collect the payment, someone at the company could change the date on your contract to 2019 and unscrupulously claim it’s owed an additional year of payments from you.

Helping protect against fraud in 2020

These two examples — freshening a check and changing the date on a past-due loan — are unlikely to occur. But if they did, you might have to spend time with your bank or in court to resolve the issue.

An awareness of check-date fraud is a reminder to practice strong financial habits to help protect against fraud in 2020.

For instance, if you spot charges you didn't make on your financial statements, or you notice accounts you didn't open on your credit reports, take these steps:

  • Contact the company immediately.
  • Close the account.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Consider putting a fraud alert on your credit with each of the three major credit bureaus.

Good financial habits can help protect against financial fraud and identity theft. That includes making it a habit to write the full year — 2020 — on checks and financial documents to protect against check-date fraud.

Proactive tip: Make a note to remind yourself to do this again in 2030.

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