Experts warn of 2020 scam

ESCANABA — Since Jan. 1, there have been countless posts on social media warning people to write out the full “2020” on checks and other important documents instead of abbreviating the year as done in the past. A local financial institution provided insight on why people should avoid the shortened “20” and other things that make people susceptible to scams.

Desiree Calouette, a retail banking officer at U.P. State Bank in Escanaba, said writing the full 2020 on a check and other important documents is a way for people to protect themselves from possible problems later on.

“It only takes a couple extra seconds to do,” she said.

The scams that could pop up with abbreviating the year to just “20” would include someone either post-dating or stale-dating the year, meaning either putting a “19” or “21” after the “20” to make it another year altogether.

Writing the date out completely protects yourself from post-dating and stale-dating and is a general good habit, Calouette said.

She explained when it comes to this type of scam, post-dating would be more prevalent on checks and stale-dating would be more prevalent on important documents.

Post-dating a check would allow someone to cash a check if it had not been cashed before its stale date, the date after which financial institutions won’t cash the check. Calouette said checks are usually only honored for six months, but if a check has the abbreviated “20” someone could end up cashing it years later.

“There would be a chance if the person had held onto the check that next year they could just right ‘2021’ on it and no one would be the wiser that the check was actually written a year ago,” she said.

It would turn a check that could not be cashed into a check that could.

“It’s not a very sophisticated scam. I don’t think it’s going to be widespread,” Calouette said.

Stale-dating an important document could change the meaning of it by making it look like it was signed years ago.

According to Calouette, the scam can be easily avoided by writing the complete year.

“It is a simple one to avoid,” she said.

Calouette said she doesn’t feel like the “2020” scam is going to be that big of a problem and there are far more sophisticated scams people should be concerned about.

A big scam Calouette has noticed in the area involves a scammer calling people up and pretending to be financial institutions asking for personal information.

“People pretending to be your financial institution calling and asking you to verify information or saying ‘your card has been compromised and we just need your pin number in order to order you a new one’ or ‘I need you to confirm your social security number.’ And in reality, financial institutions would never call you and ask you for that information,” she said.

Financial institutions would only ask to verify information, like the last four digits of a social security number, when you contact them, Calouette explained. She added it’s to make sure they’re talking to the right person.

“You should never give out your pin number, your full account number (or) your social security number over the phone,” Calouette said.

Scammers are becoming far more convincing with the advancement in technology.

Calouette explained scammers can make the call look like it’s coming from a valid phone number by “spoofing” a phone number. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. The site also added scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency that you may already know and trust.

“Just be very, very cautious whenever you’re giving out your information,” Calouette said.

Some good habits to be better protected against scams include vigilantly monitoring banking statements and making sure online accounts are secure.

“A lot of times people don’t check their statements as often as they should anymore, and they could have something that’s coming out (of their account) for months. So it’s really important to make sure everything looks right on your statements,” Calouette said.

The best defense is information.

Calouette noted U.P. State Bank does seminars and presentations on how to protect yourself from scams.

“Dave Williams, our president, he does elder financial abuse and exploitation seminars, as well. And that has a lot of good information on very specific targeting scams that go around — because we do hear about new ones every day,” she said.