The Unusual Legal Risk of Shortening 2020 on Documents

Unusual Legal Risk of Shortening 2020

How often have you shortened the year 2020 to just 20 this year? If research and advice is to be believed, you could be putting yourself at an unusual legal risk!

As we are now two months into 2020, can you remember how many times you have deliberately shortened the year to read as 20 instead?

Well if you have been doing this on official documents and other important paperwork, you could be putting yourself at a serious albeit unusual legal risk as a recent article from Forbes first suggests.

The issue, raised by the East Millinocket Police Department, explains how by just writing down the numbers 20 instead of the full year of 2020, we leave ourselves open to documents being unlawfully modified and heightens the possibility of falling victim to fraud.

‘Protect Yourself – Do Not Abbreviate 2020’

The explanation for this unusual legal risk potentially occurring was explained in their recent Facebook post, which reads:

“When signing and dating legal documents, do not use 20 as the year 2020.”

Giving an example on how the numbers could be tweaked to benefit any would-be criminal or fraudster, they added:

“March 3, 2020 being written as 3/3/20 could be modified to 3/3/2017 or 3/3/2018” before then warning:

“Protect yourself.

Do not abbreviate 2020”

The claim that abbreviating 2020 to just 20 could put the public at risk has also been supported via another source, this time Dusty Rhodes, Auditor of Hamilton County.

Again taking to Social Media in order to explain his concerns, Rhodes said:

“When writing the date in 2020, write the year in its entirety.

It could be possibly protect you and prevent legal issues on paperwork.”

Much like with the East Millinocket Police Department, Rhodes provides another example of what could happen when shortening the year 2020, citing:

“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.”

What Makes 2020 Different From Other Years?

There is, however, a belief that there is no major unusual legal risk that stems from shortening 2020.

Several sources claim the evidence is unfounded and that the advice could be misguided.

A commenter on East Millinocket Police Department’s Facebook post which originally delivered the message, questioned why 2020 was different to many other years which have been shortened down on documents and paperwork.

Referring to the shortening of 2019 to 19, he challenges:

“Should we not have used ‘19’ for the entirety of last year: e.g. 3/3/19 because someone could alter it to ‘3/3/1991 (92 93, 94 through 1998).


Sounds like fear mongering here”

Balancing Out the Concern of an Unusual Legal Risk When Shortening 2020

So which viewpoint holds the most weight when it comes to an unusual legal issue which occurs when shortening 2020 to 20?

After originally making the claim that writing 20 to represent 2020 could provoke more scams and fraud to be committed on paper documents and legal papers, East Millinocket Police Department responded:

“Of course we understand that all dates can be altered, however I believe that most here would agree that if a document of any kind, either legal or professional, is brought to our attention as being forged or fraudulent, it would likely raise far more red flags, depending on the circumstances, if it had a date of 1999 as opposed to 2019 or 2021.”

Our Thoughts

This recent topic certainly provides a conundrum when it comes to addressing how we sign off years and important dates on day-to-day documents.

From the advice given, shortening down 2020 to just 20 won’t prove to be an unusual legal risk on common papers and documents that aren’t confidential in nature.

But when it comes to legal papers and financial documentation, it’s probably wise to write out the entire year as a matter of safety and privacy, so that if the worst should happen, you will still have evidence to show that the correct year is still present and written out in full.

After all, how much time are we really saving by writing the year 2020 out as 20?

Sam Rose