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Dubai: As 2019 ends, UAE residents are sending New Year greetings to their loved ones.

But the one New Year message they are exchanging most is about how to write dates on important documents like bank cheques in 2020 to safeguard themselves against possible fraud.

“While writing a date in the upcoming year 2020, we should write in its full format, e.g. 31/01/2020 and not as 31/01/20., bcoz anyone can change it to 31/01/2000 or 31/01/2019 or in between any year to suit his convenience,” says the message which has gone viral in the country.

Neither the UAE Central Bank nor any other institution has issued an advisory on the correct format of writing dates in 2020, but lawyers and financial experts said it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

“Why take the risk? If you are writing a cheque for January 4, 2020, you may as well write the full date, 04/01/2020, instead of 04/01/20,” said a commercial litigation lawyer in Dubai.

Farhat Khan, managing partner at Century Maxim International, a UAE-based legal consultancy, also urged people to use the full date format. “Changing a cheque date without authorisation is illegal. That said, if a date originally written as 01/01/20 is altered to read like 01/01/2021 or 01/01/2019 by adding two digits, then the burden of proof will rest will the issuer. The matter could be referred to forensics resulting in a long legal process. To avoid such problems, it’s always safe to use the full date format DD/MM/YYYY,” he said.

Avoid risk

Business owners in the UAE said they will stick to the full date format. “I can’t take any chances,” said Junaid Khan, owner of F11 International Group in Dubai. Biyush Aby of Ambi General Trading said he has instructed his staff to use full date format as the short one could be backdated.

A financial expert said residents must also exercise caution while writing dates on application forms at colleges, passports or visa offices during 2020.

“Most of us are accustomed to writing dates in the short form. That needs to change. The problem will persist this year. From 2021, they may go back to using last two digits,” he said.

Earlier this year, the UAE Banks Federation (UBF) rolled out plans to tackle counterfeit cheques. Fake cheques expose banks, businesses and customers to financial, reputational and legal risks, the association said which is weighing enhanced encryption technology and increased use of QR codes to tackle cheque fraud. .

In September this year, a Dubai Court sentenced an Egyptian banker in absentia to five years in prison for forging a cheque and siphoning Dh1.2 million cheque from a British customer’s account.