Do I need to put the full year “2020” on my checks and documents?

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Do I need to put the full year “2020” on my checks and documents?

In short, yes. Not only should you spell out the entire year in any hand-written documents like checks or legal paperwork, but you also should use the same for any typewritten documents. Law enforcement officials say shortening the year to “20” can leave you vulnerable to fraudulent backdating. The reason is that a two-digit “20” intended for the year can easily be changed to “2019” or “2018.” It can also be changed to a future date for fraudulent purposes.

Not heard of this before? That’s because it hasn’t been an issue since 1919 – the last time the two-digit year abbreviation matched the century.

Some have pointed out that in 2019, a document with an abbreviated date, e.g. 1/1/19, might have been changed to reflect the year 1999. This is true. However, a document that is backdated only a year or two is easier for fraudsters to slide by undetected compared to a 20-year gap.

So while concern about altered dates on legal documents isn’t new (think underage drinkers altering IDs), writing out the four-digit year is an easy way to safeguard against one type of fraud.

Below are some other tips for completing legal documents from the Attorney’s Information Bureau, as published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

  • Read instructions first. Always read the instructions before you complete and file your own legal documents.
  • Sign in all spots. Carefully comb through all of your legal paperwork to make sure you’ve signed everywhere required.
  • Use a black pen. Fill in the blanks on legal forms with black ink.
  • Use clear, legible handwriting. Avoid using cursive unless you’re signing a document.
  • Get it notarized. Some legal documents require notarization by an authorized notary.

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