To falsify something for the purpose of deceiving someone is known as forgery which is a crime. Forgery can be in the form of counterfeiting or art forgery but every kind of forgery is considered a crime. Forgery in the case of counterfeiting is severely punished. Crime has been there since the world came into being but it started to flourish in the twentieth century when several prospects for forged activities arose. Greeks and Romans signed their art with other people’s names and hoped that a big name would be capitalized. Similarly, coins and paper money have been faked by counterfeiters since they were introduced in the world. Some acts of ancient forgery were so impressive that they have been placed in museums for display and in some instances, pieces of art haven’t been exposed as forged work for centuries after the museums and galleries got hold of them, very much to the shame of the staff. (Smith, 2010)
Definition of Forgery
“To illegally modify or reproduce a document, signature, an instrument, legal tender or any other means of storing information is known as forgery.” Any item that is copied is also considered forged. (forgery Definition)
When something is forged, a piece of art for the purpose of mimicking the style of a popular artist is made by a person and signed with the name of the artist. Usually, the work of dead artists is forged because their work cannot be testified. A few art forgers are very sharp. They utilize several techniques so that it becomes hard to detect a fake. Similarly, several techniques are used by art historians for examining art in the hopes of detecting forged works from real works of art.
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To forge documents is a profitable endeavor in several parts of the world. Identification, certificates of title to property and other such documents can be generated by forgers for cheating. In a few cases, documents are forged for kind purposes such as to enter an establishment with age restrictions and in many cases forgery is done for more sinister purposes such as to detect theft. Several precautions are taken when official documents are made like the use of special inks and papers so that forgery is made difficult. Forgery is a growing problem in the financial world. Currencies are actually made by forgers which is known as counterfeiting but fake checks and other important financial documents are also signed which cause a lot of problems even if the crime is detected. To examine suspicious documents and other material that might have been forged is called questionable document examination. Individuals, who choose to study forgery, may select a specific kind of forgery to specialize. Those who specialize in forgery may analyze things such as medieval paintings, title deeds, currency with the help of several instruments and techniques to detect forgeries.
Types of Forgery
Forgery is of three main types and all the types of forgery are common these days because of the advanced technology. The three types of forgery are:
Forgers can change documents for their benefit by altering the information within a particular document. Household bleach, paint thinners or special ink rubbers to a check can be applied to make changes to documents. Forgers can attempt to alter the amount or change the payee on a check easily. Most of the times, these alterations are not detected. Some forgers alter documents by using cut and paste technique. Others alter documents with the help of technology. Nowadays, documents can be easily scanned into a computer and the details along with the image can be altered within a few minutes. With the help of color inkjet printers, new documents can be created by forgers that look just like or even better than the original documents. A student in the United States got admission to New York University (NYU) with the help of a forged college record. The forged college record was obtained by taking the college record of another student going to another college, and then the student’s name, grades and other details were changed and blank forms were obtained and printed from a local print shop. Fake classes and grades were filled in by the student which he sent to New York University with the admission’s application.
Signature forgery is thought to be the easiest type of forgery. The forger obtains a document from another individual and that individual’s name is signed on it. It is difficult to find out the forger even if the forgery is uncovered.
Forgers easily create false documents because computers, printers and scanners are easily available all over the world. To create false documents, a check or a business card can be scanned not considering what the business card or check looks like. Forgers can steal large sums of money by cashing forged checks. Just like signature forgery, by the time, forgery is uncovered it becomes impossible to track down the forger. (Forgery ICU 97-02)
To make or alter a written instrument for fraudulent activities or to deceive someone such as to sign another individual’s name to a check is known as forged writing. Writing payee’s endorsement or signing a check without the permission of the payee or the related authority. The true owner of a check is the “payee” to whom the check should be paid. Forgery at common law is “the fraudulent making and alteration of a writing to the prejudice of another man’s right.” (Forgery” Defined & Explained)
It was defined by a modern writer as “‘a false making; a making malo animo, of any written instrument, for the purpose of fraud and deceit.” (Forgery” Defined & Explained)
Forgery is a crime which is subjected to punishment by the state and national governing bodies. To make a whole written document in the name of another individual for the purpose of fraud by altering or erasing any material part of the document which gives a new meaning to it, is considered forgery though the document maybe used by someone who is not aware of the forgery.
To sign a false document or any other instrument with a true signature for which it was not intended or vice versa is also considered forgery. For example, a person might be asked to draw a will for an ill person in a specific way but what he might do is that he inserts legacies of his own head and then procures the signature of that ill person who asked him to draw the will without letting him know that the legacies have been deceitfully inserted. Sometimes a person may copy a receipt, add words in the original and then offer it as a proof on the basis that the original receipt was lost, that person too may be punished forgery. At times the name and character of another living person is assumed by a party in the writing. But to adopt a false description and to add, when a false name is not written or assumed and no individual answers the description, then it won’t be prosecuted as forgery. To make a document in a pretended name or the name of someone who does not exist is a kind of forgery which is just like creating a document in the name of a living individual and however a document may be made by someone in his own name, if he represents it as the document of another individual of the same name when actually that person does not exist, then it will be considered forgery in the name of the person who does not exist but the accuracy of this decision is doubted.
Generally, a person cannot be guilty of forgery on doubt, however in writing a will, a legacy is deceitfully omitted which he was told to insert and by omitting that legacy, a material alteration would be caused, or in other cases, a devise of an estate for life to one is omitted, as a result of which, devise of the same property to another to pass a present estate which would have passed remains only, then it will be considered a forgery. It may be seen that the crime of forgery may be complete without publishing a forged document.
For a document to be forged the purpose of making the document must be to defraud another person but it is not necessary that anyone of the persons is hurt. It is enough that the forged document is proven harmful. Laws have been passed in most of the states which make some acts to be considered forgery and Congress has also enacted some laws on forgery.
(Forgery” Defined & Explained)
Signs for Forged Checks
There are several signs which may detect a forged check. However any one sign does not necessarily mean that the check is forged. The more the number of signs, higher are the chances of forgery. The signs are:
Perforations maybe lacked on the check.
There is a missing digit from the check number or it does not change.
Personal checks having a low check number such as from 101 to 400 and from 1001 to 1500 on business checks. Around ninety percent of forgeries are done on accounts that are less than a year old.
The font that has been used to print the customer’s name seems obviously different from the font used to print the address.
Additions have been made to the check such as the phone numbers are written by hand.
The address of the customer is not present on the check.
The address of the bank is not present on the check.
There are marks on the check because of the changes.
The MICR coding on the bottom of the check is shiny. Real magnetic ink appears to be dull.
The check number and the MICR coding do not match.
There are missing MICR digits.
The district of the bank and the routing symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the check and MICR coding do not match.
The payee’s name seems to have been printed by a typewriter. Where as payroll, dividend checks and expenses are printed with the help of computers.
The word VOID seems to appear on the check.
There is no authorized signature.
(Check Fraud Prevention: What is Check Fraud-Types of Check Fraud)
Frank Abagnale is considered one of the biggest forgers of the world. He cashed around $2.5 million through false checks between 1964 and 1969, assumed identities of eight different people including a lawyer, a pediatrician and even a pilot for Pan Am. A movie, “Catch me if you can” was made on his life in which Leonardo DiCaprio played his role in 2002.
Anatasios Arnaouti was a forger who was caught and imprisoned in 2005. He led one of the major of United Kingdom’s counterfeiting operations. He produced fake currency in his factory and around £276,000 was created in one day. It has been estimated that he created around £10 in fake currency.
Abel Buell was a forger who was born in Connecticut in 1742. He attempted to convert £5 notes into higher denominations. He was caught and punished by printing “F” on his head which branded him as a forger.
Victor Lustig is known for selling the Eiffel Tower twice by fraud though he did not own it. He was arrested when he was opening a locker with a key in his hand which had $51,000 in fake currency.
He was a famous British forger who was known for counterfeiting. He was detected by Royal Mint and Sir Isaac Newton in 1699. He was caught and punished by hanging.
Stephen Jory led the so-called Lavender Hill Mob. He created fake £20 notes. He was arrested and admitted in his trial that he had created £50 million of fake £20 notes but the figure is believed to be much higher.
Catherine Murphy clipped off small pieces from gold coins to make new ones. She was executed in 1789.
(Famous Forgers, 2009)
Analysis of major forgery
Forging documents by corrupting the records keeping systems is a severe crime against society. Forgers like their work accepted as being genuine and get amused while embarrassing the experts. They like to change history the way they want to see it. People practice forgery for its lucrative benefits and pleasure. Forgery robs society and contaminates the very essence of humanity.
Letter Forgery – The Salamander Letter
Plain one and half page handwritten letter to W.W. Phelps of Canandaigua, New York from Martin Harris, dated 23 October, 1830, depicted an uncanny event that Harris had observed three years back.
“”In the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph Smith found a gold bible I take Joseph aside & he says it is true I found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment of the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole & struck me three times & held the treasure & would not let me have it because I lay it down to cover over the hole when the spirit says do not lay it down.””
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Harris’s narration of Prophet Joseph Smith’s discovery of golden plates, the plates that were translated to be included in the Book of Mormon that is the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gravely denied Smith’s own recollection of the event. It called into question the divine character of the finding. The salamander was of no divine importance or an angel sent by God, it was a common sign that originated from fold magic and medicine. The letter recommended that Prophet Smith was hallucinating while mistaking it with divine communication that could have emerged from folk medicine experiments. The letter damaged the authenticity and divinity of the 150 years old church and no one cared where could have been all these 153 years. It was found by a Mormon dealer in an unstamped envelope, a philately specialty that concerted on postal blotting prior to stamps in late 1840s who paid no attention to the letter’s origin. The FBI and a prominent manuscript dealer substantiated that the letter had the genuine look and feel. When the Salamander letter was compared with other documents of the period, it was known that it was written by similar iron gall ink used during that period and had the same chemical composition. The report concluded, “”there is no evidence to suggest that these documents were prepared at a time other than their reported dates.”
In 1983, the letter appeared to be indisputable and the leaders of Mormon Church got worried. Subsequently further events revealed that a disenchanted Mormon, Mark Hofmann had forged the letter and used his skills to dishonor the church. He was trying to change the church’s history to destabilize the foundations of the church. He testified during his murder trial, “”I believed that the documents that I created could have been a part of Mormon history. In effect, I guess, the questions I asked myself in deciding on a forgery[,] one of the questions was, what could have been? I had a concept of church history and I followed that concept””.
Hoffman’s Technique of forgery
Hoffman work of forging nineteenth century documents required mastery uncovered broad range of knowledge and abilities like:
Artistic and manual dexterity to fabricate smooth and flawless writing according to person’s specific writing style.
Composition and chemistry of ink that could test positive for the period in question
Having contemporary paper sources and postal blots
Undertaking historical research to be in command of commonly known facts, day of delivery suitable and mail route for the fabricated letter to gain acceptance as being genuine and
Fictional content imagination that is enough to being closer to real, and will be taken for authentic.
Hoffman used two conventions, first he made up the document’s discovery to someone else such that its real value is recognized. Second he made the document suggest historical connections of individuals that sufferers would eagerly see and unsuspectingly accept (Gracy II).
Detection of forgery
Detecting forgery of unique objects can be done through the object’s evidence of time and place in which it was finished (‘Forgery, Britannica’). Often a forger unconsciously creates style confusion or ingeniously accents elements that spark contemporary bias. For example the work passed as Lucas Cranach’s by the bright German forger F. W. Rohrich, by imbuing paintings with a feel of Biedermeier visual, that was common in his own times, that later deceived their falsity. Regardless of modern technological breakthroughs, a great deal of forgery remains impermeable to detection by other than experimental means (‘forgery, Encyclopedia topics’).
Success to detect a forgery can only be achieved only if the investigator is precipitous about all related technical, mechanical, physical and historical matter that may be essential in recognizing irregularities in any document. Serendipity is one of the important powers and hence is ranked high for all investigators. Examiner needs to ask the right question at the right instant to spot forgeries and note dissonances. There are various features of a forgery and can be classified into four groups, that is content of forgery, provenance, technology and technique of the forger.
Content of the forgery
The examiners inexperience surfaces when the document is question is being assessed to validate the content. Examiners do not know all the necessary facts, while skilled forgers have carefully analyzed every aspect. The older the document is, the more the examiner needs to be well-versant with the rule of phraseology and word usage of the period. Configuring dates and the styles of abbreviation have evolved greatly over the last three centuries. Furthermore the shapes of certain letters have also changed over time in their cursive.
Common forgery cases get successful because often the victim believes in the validity of the document. Forgers give victims enough knowledge to lay their provenance basis, and let them build and substantiate the forgery through facts and chance discovery. An old aphorism states that if a proposal appears too good to be true, it is probably false, rightly applies to forged documents. This aphorism can be rephrased for forgery as, “”If it is remarkable that a document has surfaced all of a sudden, likely there is more to the story of the document’s existence than the provenance offered””.
Technique of the forger
Forgers have unique creative abilities, in intellectual conception and styling provenance and content, and in physical area of making of the object to make it appear to something it is not. Forgers do fake repairs to suggest substantial age and attention to the object for the intention of improving provenance. The examiner should critically evaluate the material used in the repair and the condition in which it was done. The examiner should be well versed with the aging techniques that may include staining paper with tea or coffee, or document misuse with tears or holes for book worms. Finally the examiner should doubtful about standard dealer’s markings.
Examiners need to evaluate the appearance of the forgery through use of technology. They should look for the dates when certain technology became common and the technical aspects of their likelihood of applicability. Examiner should check paper under lights for watermarks and for woven or chained patterns of the paper texture. The interaction of paper and ink is vital to exposing any forgery (Gracy II).
Detecting forgery in Writing
While examining writing for evidence of forgery requires careful comparison between the original writers and other. The author of the writing known is commonly called the original and is referred to by his name. The writing with which it is compared, or is the subject of investigation is a called the suspect. The suspected writings should be separately numbered until the original thoroughly mastered. It is important to put away the suspected writing to avoid confusion having multiple types of writing in front of the eye and mind so as to avoid prejudice to any one type. Any influence to first evaluate the suspect should be resolutely defied.
Paper and envelope should be examined carefully for its quality, watermark, size or any inherent feature for clues. Then the overall general style of the document should be studied for top and side margins. Identify words in the writing for usual use of hyphen to divide words. Next measure the distance between the lines and make a note of the distance. Then make a note of the average distance between the words, and see if they appear to be connected without lifting of the pen. Check the slope and top of the letters that have tails. Look for punctuation style frequency and accuracy. Determine the writing class. Note for language peculiarities and errors or spelling of words like if it’s ‘favor’ or ‘favour’ etc. Note particular letters that have two or more touching points like, m, h, d, k, n and so on to check for writing regularity. Lastly look for tailed or topped letters for loops and bars if they are formed by single stroke. Classify and examine the loops or their angular, roundness, short or narrow style. Devoting time to this aspect of handwriting will unveil the writer’s unconscious features, and will reflect upon valuable evidence (Blackburn & Caddell).
Detecting forgery in Art
Forgery detection is done through two major approaches, stylistic and technical analysis; these are complementary and generate best results together. Stylistic analysis is very subjective in nature and resides with the wise eye of the art historians. Each artist has a certain flair, style, and vigor that solely belongs to him and is easily familiar. The style changes and improvises overtime as the artist’s career flourishes and can be stylistically documented and analyzed (‘Forgery, Britannica’). Expertise in important to authenticate the styles and aesthetics of various periods and remain the principle instrument to detect forgery. Artistic gaucherie or clutter of motifs and styles, and an apparent emphasis of forger’s aesthetic values current times constantly reveals the forgery than most of the technical analysis. The technical analysis can involve various techniques and have evolved over time. Sometimes a sketch or an x-ray can be used underneath the original art surface to substantiate the paintings. In earlier centuries, costumes of an under painting were considered basic characteristic of an art value, and later surface painting emerged as one way of doing forgery (Conklin). Even so contemporary tools like infrared, ultraviolet photography and x-ray are used to expose overpainting and pentimento. Furthermore craquelure can also be microscopically scrutinized. In addition carbon-14 and chemical analysis provide comparatively uncertain evidence in case ancient materials have been utilized.
Forgeries in United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates labor ministry has initiated an e-signature card system to prevent scams and forgery to minimize standard procedures. The e-signature system has replaced the “signature authorization card” scheme which earlier required authorized signatory for any transaction with the ministry. The new e-signature will have a card with a specific code number which is required to be entered before any transaction with the ministry (‘e-Signature card..’).
Passport forgeries are very common in United Arab Emirates. Dubai police recently released details of passport forgers including six British born and three Irish individuals suspected in killing key Hamas commander. The suspect used real life individual identifies for forging their passports. One of the British national confirmed the name and passport number that matched has, but had the incorrect birth date. The individual had no clue how and when his passport details were obtained as it was never reported being lost or stolen (Neighbor). The passport forgery was believed to have been done through Israeli government officials. British foreign secretary David Miliband showed his displeasure over Israel involvement, and said that “”Such misuse of British passports is intolerable,” and added that Israel being an ally of UK Miliband “”only adds insult to injury””. The passports were forged using genuine UK identities in a highly sophisticated operations and planning and clearly indicated a government’s involvement (UK: Israel behind Forgery, CNN’).
A Filipino waiter faced trial for theft of credit card and signature forgery. The waiter worked at a local hotel, stole a debit card, three mobile phones, watch, three iPods, and watch. He shopped for 1300 dirham’s using the stolen debit card at a nearby supermarket, and used forged owner’s signatures on the acquired receipts (‘another phony waiter in UAEâ€¦’).
Numerous universities in UAE are using RFID tags on the degrees and certifications they issue to ensure the document authenticity. The ministry requires academic institutions to standardize data collection of students specifically their personal and academic details. In addition it recommends institutions to publish certificates that are difficult to forge. They are recommended to adopt the Amricon’s solution that uses diplomas having fitted adhesives with RFID labels that contain specific security codes that are helpful in hindering any forgery attempts to encode the RFID tags using unauthorized means (Wessel).
Preventing Check Fraud
It is important to go through the checks regularly and check the starting and ending numbers which are important for re-ordering. Keep checking if all the checks are present
The financial institution must be notified even if any one check is missing.
Bank statement should be reconciled every month. Signs of check forgery must be observed.
Checkbook must be kept in a set place and it should not be accessible to guests.
Checkbook must not be left in the car. If the car gets stolen, the checkbook will also be lost.
Environment should be assessed while traveling. Purse or backpack should be carefully set. Checkbooks should not be kept in pockets.
Forgers are very clever and are always honing their skills to manage and master new technologies in their desire and motivation to create fake documents. The forged documents and art are so original to one’s view and examination that they are often mistaken for what they are supposed to be. Forgers have personal gains that they earn at the expense of the society and history. Forgery acceptance and use of intentionally false documents deprives individuals understanding of history, and endanger one’s sense of present. Forger’s success greatly depends on the vigilator’s record keeping. Therefore keeping records safe is every individual’s responsibility as it makes the foundation and basis of who we are. As the scientific techniques are getting more and more sophisticated so are the techniques of the forger’s. The finding of the forgery reveals interesting facts; one day a great piece of art will be priceless, and the other day worthless. Therefore without the origin and proof, any art’s valuation or estimation is purely a matter of subjective human judgment.
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