An alteration is the unauthorized modification of a security document and can occur for a variety of reasons.
Financial documents are altered for obvious reasons and include checks, wills, deeds, trusts, and stock certificates. Other documents are altered for the free movement of people like passports and visas. Still other documents are altered to gain benefits like health care forms, child custody agreements, employment contracts, and social security cards.
Alterations of financial documents such as checks and stock certificates are frequently examined by document examiners. Personal checks are altered by using a similar type of writing ink and raising the dollar amount and adding words to the written entries. Another option is check washing: where a check will be intercepted, washed and presented as a legitimate check. Detection of these types of alterations may be done by examining the check under alternate light sources such as ultraviolet and infrared. These light sources can show a reaction in the paper that a chemical was applied or that a different pen was used to raise the dollar amounts on the checks. With stock certificates, alterations may occur with the typewriting or printing process used to produce the certificate. Often the alteration will demonstrate a style of typewriting/printing that is not consistent with the rest of typewritten/printed certificate or a printing process that was not commercially available when the stock certificate was issued. All of these characteristics must be carefully analyzed and a conclusion based on the entirety of the document.