Forgery, as described under criminology, is the act of filling in the blanks of a document as your own since it already has a valid signature, or the process of materially altering an existing document. Forgery is viewed as a felony which is punished through fine or imprisonment, and at times both of these options. It may occur through several methods such as via handwriting, typewriting, engraving or even printing. Forgery must be claimed through an effective proof that someone attempted to pass on a document that is fake intentionally. This paper attempts to understand the various items that can be forged, as well as the methods which are commonly used, and how a forensic document examiner can identify forgery.
Both the signature and passport can be forged. According to statistics, millions of consumers are impacted every year as a result of identity theft (Barker, 2010). Although most of these tend to occur mainly in the virtual world, there are still some cases of signature forgery whereby criminals try to impersonate someone else. In most cases, signature forgery occurs as an attempt to steal money, which will require signed checks or other important personal documents featuring signatures.
Passports, on the other hand, are also forged as many individuals who do not qualify to enter into a country end up stealing the documents of those who have already been accepted. Unfortunately, the market for forged passports is currently hitting the highest level ever experienced throughout history (Abdul Hadi & Paino, 2016). This increase in demand for false passports can be attributed to several issues that are currently challenging the society. First, the European refugee crisis has led to many losing their documents which would have been used to move around in search of greener pastures. Second, the issue of terrorism and other criminal activities has also encouraged the growth of this market as individuals need false identities to conduct criminal behaviors without getting caught (Robertson, 2014). Human trafficking is also a contributor as the traffickers create fake passports for these individuals who are being sold to other parts of the world. Therefore, the American and European security officials are even claiming that there is an epidemic of counterfeit documents.
According to statistics, over 40 million passports have been reported as lost or stolen since 2002 (Robertson, 2014). Approximately 250,000 of these are from Syria and Iraq, the countries which have in the past been linked to producing a lot of terrorists who come to destroy the lives of many in the United States (Abdul Hadi & Paino, 2016). Therefore, it is likely that these documents have already found new owners who are posing as the original owners and moving into the U.S.
One of the important documents needed during a forgery of passport and signature is the Birth certificate. This is one of the most difficult forms of forgery ever experienced as there are many legal versions doing rounds today. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether one is legitimate or not.
The certification of report of birth is also a document that is frequently forged. The names of the child can be changed, or a signed notification can be obtained for a child who is non-existent. All that is required is the access to the blank documents.
This is a citizenship document offered to a child who is born abroad to the U.S citizens (Barker, 2010). These parents can easily choose a newborn baby, probably even kidnap one, and apply for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad.
Diplomas and the corresponding diplomatic credentials are also among the most commonly forged documents. This is because of the competitive nature of the employment industry. Those people who never got to pursue higher education are looking for various ways to also appear as competitive as those who have valid degrees (Robertson, 2014). This boosts their chance of getting employed in well paying job positions.
Everyone wants to be able to drive a car, but the process of going through driving school is quite expensive for many. This is why many are also forging their driver’s license so that they can move freely without fear of getting caught and charged for driving without a license (Barker, 2010).
An international driving permit is also forged for the convenience of using a personal car instead of public means in a foreign country (Abdul Hadi & Paino, 2016).
Manufacturer’s certificate of origin is mostly forged by those companies which sell counterfeit products. With this certificate, they can get the permit to supply the products without being held prosecuted.
Title documents are also forged to show that one owns something, or is a part of a group or anything related. For instance, a vehicle title may be forged for one that is stolen, and the criminal wants to make a quick sale.
Documents that enable one to move from one country to the next are also quite popular for being forged (Barker, 2010). This is because people always seek an easier way out of gaining access to several resources that are cheaper in other countries. Also, there are those who feel like they need to gain an access to the better opportunities in developed countries such as the U.S (Robertson, 2014).
Lastly, documents representing an individual’s identity are also forged so one can assume an identity that is not his or hers. This is often because they are trying to hide something in their background. Examples of such documents are.
A forensic document examiner is a professional who scrutinizes documents so as to identify any possible weaknesses and discrepancies which may indicate forgery. They have undergone the necessary training which enables them to scrutinize any types of documents such as handwritten evidence and typewritten evidence (Abdul Hadi & Paino, 2016). The aspects which they analyze include the branding on the piece of printed paper as well as the stamp. These are usually unique for every institution, and forging such may be quite difficult. The color of printed text and size is also considered. In most cases, the forged document will not appear exactly as the original document (Robertson, 2014).
The signature and handwriting on handwritten documents will also be analyzed. In most cases, people make signatures that are of the same length. Therefore, this is what they measure to determine whether the signature is made by the original individual. The handwriting is also compared as not all have the same outlook no matter how hard someone tries to forge (Barker, 2010). For instance, the inclination of specific letters will not be the same for two individuals. The forensic examiner also checks the testimony given by an individual to determine whether it matches with all the other personal information provided.
Forgery fraud can be detected through two approaches; ink examination and infrared comparison. Ink examination features an analysis of the ink color and its density. If there is a difference between the ink densities and even shade of color used on the original document, then it becomes outright that the document is fake (Robertson, 2014). The infrared comparison, on the other hand, is a lighting technique which utilizes infrared wavelengths of light to detect any erasures that may not be visible to the human eye. This will confirm the originality of a document.
Documents can be forged through erasures, obliterations and even alterations. The techniques for detecting forgery can identify any of these approaches by means of specific approaches such as taking note of shadowing on words and even detecting an area where words have been deleted or added (Abdul Hadi & Paino, 2016).
In conclusion, the issue of forgery is quite common in the society today. There are more fake documents doing rounds today more than it has ever been experienced. Individuals are looking for a simple way out of their situations while others are using forgery as a freeway to committing crime and going back to life as usual. Fortunately, several approaches have also been put in place to assist forensic examiners on how to detect a fake document.