In a public service announcement to those who like to abbreviate dates (me) / are lazy with dates (me), experts in the US have warned not to shorten “2020” to just “20” because it could leave you vulnerable to scammers.

This whole thing originally did the rounds at the very beginning of the year, but then it just went viral. You might have seen it in some corner of Facebook / Twitter / Reddit.

It all started when Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, emailed USA Today about the potential scam. In short, he urged people to write the date out in full. For example: Jot down 15/1/2020 instead of 15/1/20 because anyone could change that to 15/1/2018, just by adding two numbers to the end of it and so on and so forth. Why does it matter? Well, enter Rheingold.

“Say you agreed to make payments beginning on 15/1/20. The bad guy could theoretically establish that you began owing your obligation on 15/1/2019, and try to collect additional $$$,” Rheingold told USA Today.

Or your mate, a dickhead, could add the numbers as a laugh. It could screw with paperwork, official documents, cheques etc. etc. Of course, any document can be tampered with but adding two simple numbers is probably the easier option.

It’s unlikely in today’s digital age, but it’s not completely impossible.

Considering USA Today is quite big in the States, the advice went boonta. Rheingold has copped a slew of interview requests from print, broadcast, and radio journos all keen to know more about the scam. He reckons it’s turning heads because of how simple and understandable it is. Any moment now, Mum will send me a WhatsApp chain message about it – I’m sure of it. Not to mention, she has a lot of friends – of the older generations – that still like to use cheques, and they’re the most vulnerable when it comes to these sort of scams.

As for the whole thing going viral – US police departments are literally posting text images on social media to warn people –  Rheingold told Slate Magazine that all the attention is “just an opportunity to warn people that they need to be careful”.

Better to be safe than sorry, I guess.

Image: Getty Images