Posted by: Rob | January 11, 2020

On Fraud and Comprehension

You’ve probably seen (on Facebook or Twitter or some other social media the admonition “Don’t abbreviate 2020 to 20 on any cheque you write because you could get scammed”, which went viral at the very turn of the new year. I read the memes and dismissed them. One: because I don’t write many cheques anymore, and two: my cheque blanks have the year pre-populated: 20______ and all I have to fill in are the last two digits.

But I was amused by this article:  https://slate.com/business/2020/01/write-out-2020-checks-scam-fraud-advice-explained.html which suggests that this particular fraud prevention notice got a lot of traction because it’s easy to explain and it’s easy for anyone to understand. Apparently the more likely to occur – and succeed – frauds (Pay your back taxes in iTunes cards, for example) tend to not go viral because they are harder to explain.

From the article:

“It’s unclear why exactly this theoretical date abbreviation scam has stoked so much concern, but Rheingold ventures that it has something to do with how easy it is to understand. Other forms of fraud, like payday lending and reverse mortgage scams, are more complex and don’t fit so neatly into a Facebook post. The fraud prevention measure for the date tampering scam is also a lot simpler—telling your friends to just write out “2020” is a quick and easy tip. Advising your friends on how to tell the difference between a valid and fraudulent IRS notice, on the other hand, takes a little more explaining.”

Okay then.


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