Detecting a forged signature
Forged signatures are one of the most common types of cases received at the Laboratory. Forgeries occur on all different types of documents from Wills, employment contracts, checks, and all types of financial documents. Any document that relates to something of value is at risk of being altered, manipulated or may contain forged signatures. When a copy of an important document is proffered instead of the original, proceed with caution!
Detection for forged documents
In regard to forged signatures, they usually exhibit at least one common difference to genuine signatures. The forged documents appear slowly prepared with a hesitating quality in areas of the signature that should be freely prepared.
With many methods to forge a signature, it may be possible to see the slowly prepared signature but often times, magnification and light sources are helpful to the forensic document examiner to magnify the signature and observe various parts of the signature that appear with a drawn-like quality.
Cut and Paste forgeries
Sometimes a signature is “cut and pasted” onto a document. In this case, the signature may appear natural but there may be other evidence surrounding the “cut and paste” to indicate otherwise. Signs of this type may include: signature appears to be floating above the baseline, awkward placement of a signature within a document, portions of the ascending or descending strokes are cut-off, an overlay of the signature appears on multiple documents.
Features an FDE would examine
Some features a FDE would examine on a signature include:
- Is the signature produced with a wet-ink writing line?
- If not, what type of printing process produced the document?
- Does the signature or writing line appear natural? Speed? Fluency?
- Does the signature appear slowly prepared? Evidence of unusual stops or starts? Hesitancy?
- Does the signature display tapered beginning and ending strokes?
How to avoid becoming a victim of forgery?
Tip 1: Keep a Copy
Important documents should be maintained with a physical copy of the original and a good quality copy, for emergency purposes.
Tip 2: Make your Signature difficult to copy
It’s difficult to forge a signature that is complex but easier to forge a signature that is simple. Take time to develop a signature that is truly unique with well-written letters and connecting strokes. Stylized signatures are fine as long as they contain speed, fluidity, and some complex letter designs or shapes.
Tip 3: Video evidence
If you suspect that a document you may sign will be challenged, take a video of you signing the document as well as other individuals who may witness or notarize the document. It’s easy to allege someone’s signature is forged but more difficult to refute video proof.
Contact a Document Expert
If you suspect your signature has been forged, contact a document examiner to conduct a signature examination. A document examiner will request a good quality copy of the “forged” document and many comparable signatures prepared around the same time period. These will be used as comparison signatures and should include between 15-20 signatures on similar types of documents prepared around the same time period.