Document Forgery (Questioned Documents)

Forgery is a criminal act that takes place when a person falsifies something with the intent to deceive another person or entity.
There are many kinds of forgery, but all are considered crimes.

Forgery is commonly thought of as the white collar crime of signing another person’s name to a document, like forging signatures on a check, for instance.  Some of the common types of questioned documents subjected to forensic document examination are stated below:

• Wills
• Cheques
• Bank Drafts
• Agreements
• Receipts
• Laminated Documents
• Photocopied Documents
• Stamp Papers
• Passports
• ID Cards
• Licenses
• Currency notes
• Suicide notes

Cases where Forensic Document Examination is Applied

Following are some cases where forensic document examination is applied to analyze different types of questioned documents.

• Identity Theft
• Forgeries
• Counterfeiting
• Suicides
• Homicides
• Fraud
• Kidnappings
• Bank Robberies
• Contested Wills
• Extortion
• Medical Malpractices
• Stalking
• Title/Deed Lawsuits
• Contested Contracts

Types of Forgery

Simple Forgery:

It is very basic and is done with no attempt to follow a known sample of the handwriting or signature. The person will then try to pass off the handwriting or the signature as the original copy of someone else’s original document.

Free Hand Simulation:

When a person attempts free hand simulation, they have a sample of the handwriting or signature to look at. A forger will then try to recreate the shapes and styling of handwriting and signatures.


Traced forgery means reproducing the exact copy of the genuine signature. Traced forgery is executed by using carbon paper, indented tracingtracing paper, transmitted light or scanned image.

Electronic Manipulation:

Document forgery through electronic manipulation is very common now a days. People will use programs such as Photoshop to copy and alter the text in digital documents and with digitally scanned documents.

Signs of Forgery

Slow and methodical strokes

These are one of the most common signs of forgery. When person writing in their own style with their own handwriting, the writing is done fast. When a person is copying a style of writing or a signature, they usually do so in a slow and methodical way, trying to get it right.

No variation in pen pressure 

This is also one of the most common signs of forgery in a document. If someone tries to copy a writing or signature, they will form the characters more carefully, creating even lines with no variation in pen pressure.


Tremor can be an indicator of document forgery. Tremors can happen because someone was nervous when they were writing. Unnatural tremor caused by stress, fear, a medical condition, or other factors.

Substituted pages 

Substitute pages are forgeries found in multi-page documents. A forger may take a page out and try to change text or signatures on the page and then replace the whole page in the document. Substituted pages can be revealed by looking at certain characteristics of the pages throughout the document.

Forgery Cases

Forgery occurs within the United States on a daily basis, but some forgery cases have made national headlines to their severity. Some of the most famous cases of forgery involves art.

The David Stein Forgeries

In the 1960s, David Stein made a living traveling from city to city, selling paintings that he claimed were done by European masters. Since the artists’ signatures were in place, many people fell for the scam. In 1967, one of these artists, Marc Chagall, saw three paintings in a New York City gallery containing his name. He knew these were not his works and he contacted the police. Stein was arrested and spend 22 years in jail. Unfortunately, shortly after his release, he was back to selling fake works of art.

Howard Hughes’ Autobiography

In 1970, a reclusive tycoon named Howard Hughes was the victim of forgery. Due to his isolated lifestyle, he was an easy target for Clifford Irving. Irving, an ordinary man, contacts publishing companies claiming that he had a letter signed by Hughes giving him permission to write his biography. McGraw-Hill, a famous publishing company paid Irving $765,000 to write the book. Irving boldly began writing it, believe that Hughes would never find out since he suffered from a metal disease, and never left his home. Irving was in for a shock two years later, however, as Hughes held a conference letting the world know that he did not know Irving and never gave him permission to write his biography. Irving was arrested and spent 17 months in prison.

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