Photocopy Forgery

See also: Photocopy and Photocopier Examination

Occasionally the document examiner undertakes the examination of a photocopy in pursuit of a determination as to the genuineness of the original signature as represented by the photocopy. This examination must necessarily include significant thought as to the possibility that a genuine signature can be affixed to a fraudulent document and the composite, or paste-up, photocopied. This may result is what would appear to be a photocopy of an original document bearing a genuine signature. The same may be true of any other portion of a photocopy and is not limited to just a signature.

Photocopies can be prepared from a composite of parts of two or more documents which, when copied, can appear to be a reproduction of a single document. The resultant copy, made from composites, may or may not display those characteristics indicative of its production from two or more document sources.

Indications of spuriousness may take the form of misaligned typing, different fonts and different font sizes, misaligned preprinted matter, incorrect vertical, horizontal and margin spacing, “shadowing” in the joined areas, disproportionate area sizes, different preprinted material and ink densities, and missing portions of writing or printing (covered by the paste-up, too closely trimmed, or masked accidently by an opaque fluid). Additionally, it may be that the “trash marks,” (described in the section on photocopier examination) surrounding the signature are in greater or lesser quantity than those on the remainder of the document. This is especially true if either the model signature or document to be used in the paste-up was itself a photocopy. The best indication of what may be a fraudulent photocopy is when the original document has “disappeared” or has been “misplaced.”

Even when none of these indications of photocopy forgery are present, the prudent document examiner that issues an opinion about the authenticity of a signature or an entire disputed document, where the submitted evidence is a photocopy, will qualify that opinion. This is often in the form of a statement that the opinion is predicated upon the questioned document having been carefully examined for evidence of photocopy manipulation. Some examiners go further by including a statement in the report of findings that founds the accuracy of opinions involving photocopies upon viewing the original document prior to any court testimony.

Somewhat understandably, there are many document examiners or employing laboratories that will refuse submission and examination of disputed documents that are not originals. While this posture is certainly “safe” it may not serve the best interests of justice. Each day our society becomes further enmeshed in machine copied documents and virtual signatures. Contemporaneous office equipment is quite capable of producing sharp, clear copies that can rival photographic film. Even some of the more modern dedicated and multi-function facsimile machines have the capability to transmit sharp images that compete with that of the photocopy machine.

Obviously photocopies that display prohibitively poor quality may be precluded from examination, but those displaying adequate line quality are deserving of some degree of qualified opinion. Of course, in the instance wherein the questioned signature looks nothing like the known signatures, even poor quality photocopies allow for definitive elimination opinions. Quite simply, having the original document will not “cure” the obvious dissimilarities.

Rev 06/19

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