Forensic Document Examiner – Certified.

Common Document Examinations

August 23, 2017 in Blog - Categories by James A. Green  |  No Comments

As a Forensic Document Examiner, I provide a resource for resolving alleged forged document issues in civil and criminal cases.  For clarification, the term ‘forgery’ is a legal term, used to broadly define the intentional falsification of a signature or document.  It is normally the result of the intent by a person to deceive another for financial gain.  

I believe two of the most common types of forgery cases are signature fabrications and document alterations.  Document examiners are trained to analyze signatures and handwriting during their primary training.  I also receive training at professional conferences attended each year.  To determine if the questioned writing is genuine or not, it is compared with known specimens of the purported writer.

Common examinations include signatures on wills, contracts, mortgage documents and checks.  You may have a different writing issue such as a threatening note, a sexually harassing message, diary entries, etc.  In my private practice, I receive more will and estate related document cases than any other type.  

A variation of a common free-hand signature simulation, is a “cut and paste” fabrication. However, nothing is sacred in the world of cut and paste document deceptions.  In addition to signatures, I have identified similar processes used for the transfer of notary signatures and seals as well as other official stamps.

Clients are also victimized by the alteration of documents in other ways.  Think of data on contracts, journals, inventory lists, time sheets, or medical records.  Writing or numerals may be added, deleted or obliterated for a self-serving purpose.

A document examiner will use various laboratory instruments to resolve such issues.  For example, a Video Spectral Comparator (VSC)  is designed to examine inks in the infrared and ultra violet light spectrums.  

If you have any of the document issues mentioned, please call to discuss your case.

Handwriting comparisons

July 24, 2016 in Handwriting by James A. Green  |  No Comments

Most document cases for handwriting experts in private practice involve handwriting comparisons.  How is hand writing differentiated between people?  Initially, writers learn to write by emulating a handwriting system taught in school.  As students mature, they quickly stray from the copybook forms to making letters with individualizing features.  These characteristics may include variations in the form of the writing slant, the spacing between letters, the design and length of approach and termination strokes, the positioning of ‘i-dots’ and ‘t-crossings’, height relationships, the design of numerals, and so forth.  

Writer’s need to balance their writing product by the limitations of their writing skill, how elaborate or embellished they wish writing to exhibit and the utilitarian influence of how quickly they would like to write.  A person struggling to embellish their writing will require more time than a skilled writer using a plain cursive style.

There is natural variation in the signatures and writing of all people.  A document examiner will ask for several known writing samples of a suspected writer for the handwriting comparison.  By having several specimens, the signature expert will be able to establish a master pattern or consistency of the writer.  The questioned signature will then either conform to the known writing specimens or not.

Handwriting comparisons is a complex process.  For example, some signatures may pictorially appear to the be the product of the same person.  However, a comparison by a document examiner may prove a signature in question was not genuine but rather the result of a simulation, tracing, or a ‘cut and paste’ fabrication.  

It is common to hear a client state they compared a signature in question with one or two known signatures of the purported writer.  As a support to their contention a signature was forged, they will note difference during their quick assessment.  However, a proper handwriting comparison may show the differences were simply the result of natural variation by that writer.  Signature examinations require several known specimens to learn what features are in common from signature to signature and which features vary.

Opinions Rendered by Document Examiners

September 18, 2015 in Handwriting by James A. Green  |  No Comments

Before a Forensic Document Examiner develops an appropriate opinion for his/her client following a signature or handwriting examination, consideration is given to whether the questioned and known specimens relied upon were original or photocopies, the number of known handwriting specimens provided, how closely dated the known specimens were dated to the questioned writing, etc.

Forensic Document Examiners commonly use one of nine opinions related to signature or handwriting comparisons; Identification, Highly Probable (did write), Probable (did write), Indications (did write), Inconclusive, Indications (did not write), Probable (did not write), Highly Probable (did not write), and Elimination.

Although a client would ideally like a black and white answer to their document or signature issue, that is not always possible for the reasons mentioned above.   What can you do to help a Forensic Document Examiner obtain the strongest opinion possible in your case?  It is not difficult.  If you have the original document in question available, submit it for the examination.   If the case relates to a signature issue, collect several known signature specimens of the purported writer.  The signatures samples should be obtained from approximately the same date as the signature in question.  

Communicate with the Forensic Document Examiner you have hired for your case.  If the suspected writer was having medical issues around the time the document was signed, it may influence the writer’s motor skill ability.  If the writing stance or writing surface was out of the ordinary, make the document examiner aware of it.  Writing under the influence of alcohol or drugs may affect writing.  



Minimizing Signature Forgeries

May 27, 2015 in Forgeries by James A. Green  |  No Comments

Signature  forgeries are the most common type of issue clients present to the signature expect they hire.  Many of the involved signatures are abbreviated and lack a few or many of  the individual letters in the name.  It is common for people signing their name frequently to simplify their signature. However, reducing the complexity of a signature increases the ability for someone to simulate it.  A complex, fluently written signature minimizes the opportunity for a successful ‘forgery’ of the name.

Many abbreviated signatures examined by this document expert were limited to one or two letters.  For a person signing their name several times throughout the day, shortening their signature to essentially their initials may serve as a time saver.  However, removing the complex structure of a full signature equates to a lessor effort necessary to successfully simulate it.  

Recall examples of beautifully scripted writing of people in days gone past, when such writing was a matter of pride as well as a major requirement in the school system.  Now think of how you would reproduce that type of signature in a fluently written manner while incorporating all of the detail in proper proportions.  A signature forgery of a well executed cursive signature would be a daunting challenge.  

The most common process used for a signature forgery is a free-hand simulation.  The writer simply uses a true signature of the person as a model, placed near the signature line where the forger will copy the genuine signature as well as they can.  If the forger lacks the motor skill ability to make a passable forgery, he/she may opt for a “cut and paste” fabrication.  That type of signature forgery is simply the transfer of a genuine signature from one document to another using a software program such as PhotoShop or Paint. 




Mortgage Documents

April 25, 2015 in Forgeries by James A. Green  |  No Comments

In the recent past, mortgage fraud was a frequent topic in the media and remains a concern of many home owners. Although there were many instances of mortgage fraud in the past, every case submitted to a handwriting expert must obviously stand on its own merits and not tainted simply because of prior deceptive practices.

The handwriting expert will focus toward specific areas of concern by the client and may conduct other examinations as appropriate.  The most frequent request of a document examiner is to determine if the signatures on the Note were originals (written with a pen), or printed with laser or inkjet technology common to printers.  

Evidence recovered may then be evaluated by the client, and their counsel.  If the signatures were not original, or the Note was altered in some manner from the initial signing, the handwriting expert will give testimony to support the client’s case.

It is common for mortgage documents to be in the possession of the Note holder or their attorney.  The inspection of the documents may be allowed (or compelled), but the expert will often be required to conduct an “on-site” document examination at a location determined by opposing counsel.  Doing so is less convenient and increases the cost of the examination for the client.  However, the confirmation of  original or photocopied signatures on the Note can be accomplished as well as the non-destructive analysis of other aspects of the document.  





Indented Writing

January 11, 2015 in Forgeries, Handwriting by James A. Green  |  No Comments
Although commonly overlooked, indented writing may be of significant value in resolving questioned document issues. As the term implies, indented writing is the non-visible indentations or images applied to a sheet of paper positioned below the page actually written upon. The indentations may be made visible by rubbing with a crayon or the side of a pencil, however, it is a destructive process not used by forensic document examiners. A specialized laboratory instrument is used by document examiners to recover indented writing. The process is non-destructive, leaving no marks on the document. An image is produced providing tangible evidence of the continuity, or non-continuity, of entries made in a journal, medical record, accounting book, etc. A qualified document examiner will have the instrumentation and knowledge of techniques appropriate to a variety of document issues.

Identification of the Writer of Simulations or Tracings

October 5, 2014 in Forgeries by James A. Green  |  No Comments
Requests are commonly received for a forensic document examiner to compare a simulated or traced signature with writing samples of the purported ‘forger’. The expectation is to confirm a suspected writer was responsible for the simulation or traced signature. The reality is a well simulated signature, or tracing, rarely contains identifying features of the writer. In the writer’s attempt to successfully replicate another persons’ signature, they attempt to discard their own handwriting profile. However, rushed or poorly executed simulations may yield some evidence of the writer if they inadvertently include their own natural writing features. Tracings rarely would offer that opportunity. Extended writing, such as anonymous notes, offers a greater likelihood of the writer including their own writing traits.

Writing Specimen Considerations

August 25, 2014 in General Blog by James A. Green  |  No Comments
During the collection process of signature specimens to submit with the questioned signature(s), maximize the comparison process by the following: Collect ‘like’ documents. For example, if a signature was written on a legal document it is preferable to submit signature samples from other legal documents rather than from greeting cards, credit card receipts, etc. Similarly, if a questioned signature is on a check, the best comparison samples would be other checks known to be signed by the account holder. Known signature exemplars should be provided to the forensic document examiner dated as close as possible to the document in question. Comparing a signature on a Will dated in 1995 with a document signed several years before or after, would serve little purpose. An ample quantity, and quality images, of the known signatures submitted provide a better foundation for the examiner to establish the writer’s ‘range of variation’, resulting in a credible, objective opinion.

Originals vs. Photocopies

May 2, 2014 in Blog - Categories by James A. Green  |  No Comments
Document examiners are commonly asked if photocopies may be used for a handwriting comparison. They may. However, the preferable form documents are submitted is in the following order: originals, photographs, photocopies and, if necessary, microfilm and faxed copies. Fortunately, modern microfilm machines provide much better quality reproductions. Original documents may provide evidence not reproduced on machine copies. For example, a common type of fabricated document involves a “cut and paste” process; cutting a genuine signature from one document and pasting it onto the fabricated document. The resulting photocopy will have a genuine signature, implying the person signed the document at issue. The ‘original’ can not be provided for examination. It’s absence will be explained as being “lost” or “misplaced”. Another reason the original is of value is it may be examined for indentations. Also, pen pressure may be evaluated and optic brighteners of individual pages in the document may be compared. Take the extra effort to provide your document examiner with the originals, if they are available. It will make their task easier and produce better results.

Signature Comparisons: just one aspect of Document Examinations

July 14, 2013 in Forgeries by James A. Green  |  Comments Off on Signature Comparisons: just one aspect of Document Examinations
Commonly, when a document is called into question the signature becomes the focus of attention.  Forensic document examiners conduct signature comparisons, but also look for other evidence on the document.  To assist with this process, specialized laboratory instruments are used. For example, there may be indentations of value on a contract, will or medical record.  As a person writes, the indentations of the writing are commonly found on the following page or pages.  A lab instrument is used to recover indentations and make them visible.  It is useful in not only learning what the indented text was but may also help in establishing if a document is consistent with the dating sequence. Another instrument used in the profession is a Video Spectral Comparator (VSC).  It serves to show differences in ink formula’s.  Although two inks may react similarly with the VSC, it cannot conclusively determine they are the same ink.  Typical cases involve altered medical records, altered contracts, wills, checks, etc.  The instrument is also effective in resolving obliterated writing cases and to authenticate security documents. Rely on a qualified document examiner to use a multi-faceted approach in the examination of your questioned document.