A LAWYER has issued a New Year warning to people in business to write the date in full to avoid falling victim to con artists.

Peter Taylor, managing partner at the Southampton-based law firm Paris Smith, said abbreviating the year 2020 to just ‘20’ could leave important documents vulnerable to fraud.

Dishonest parties in a dispute could rewrite history by adding digits after the ‘20’ and making paperwork seem older than it was.

Mr Taylor said: “When dating documents during this year you should always use the full year, 2020, rather than simply the final two digits, 20.

“Thus a date would be written/typed as 6.4.2020/6th April 2020 rather than 6.4.20/6th April 20.

“This avoids the risk of any third party, or a former disgruntled employee, supplier or customer, adding two additional digits to the year and in so doing purportedly changing the date of a key document e.g. changing 6.4.20 to 6.4.2018.

“A mischievous change of date of a document could change the complexion of the chronology of a transaction or course of dealings and cost you and your business a significant sum of money if only to prove when the document was actually signed or intended to take effect.”

He cited the example of a business which hired a building company to build a warehouse, only for the project to run into delays.

When the contract was terminated and another construction company was hired, litigation followed.

“The court looked at the dates of the documents evidencing the instructions, concerns and complaints delivered by the employing business to the building company. The court needed to assess whether the company had acted in accordance with the construction contract as well as being fair and reasonable in its approach in dismissing the builder. The chronology of that documentary evidence was key to the company’s success at court,” he said.

“In business the chronology of events and documents comes under the spotlight, particularly when relationships come under strain. Differences arise between businesses and their suppliers or with customers. It is a feature of business. Others may be asked to seek to assist to resolve the differences and in doing so will look at the chronology of the documents as key evidence.”