Forensic document examiners are commonly asked to examine abbreviated signatures in question. It is common for people that sign 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.
In the recent past, mortgage fraud has been a 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 forensic document examiner must obviously stand on its own merits and not tainted simply because of past practices. Commonly, a request will be made specifically for an examination of the mortgage ‘Note’. The document examiner will focus toward specific areas of concern of the client as well as conduct other examinations to help establish the consistency, or inconsistency, in the preparation of the contract. The process may include an analysis of the signature(s), writing inks, papers, printing processes, indentations, etc. The evidence recovered may then be evaluated by the client, and their counsel, to determine if the Note was changed in some manner from the initial signing.
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.
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.
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.
The marketing of autographed sports items with ‘forged’ signatures is an unfortunate reality. It is not uncommon for document examiners to receive requests to examine memorabilia to determine if an autograph is genuine or not. The methodology for autographs on sports memorabilia, works of art, or other non-traditional writing surfaces is essentially the same as with paper documents. A qualified examiner retained for the examination of an autographed product should be provided with the original item as well as numerous known signature specimens for the comparison process. The known signature samples would ideally be dated in close proximity to the autograph in question. Other similarly autographed items, i.e., baseball, football, would be of valuable in determining if the surface influenced the quality of the signature by the purported signer. The examination process is neither simplistic or quick. Beware of anyone that purports to be able to ‘short cut’ the examination of autographs or any other type of signatures examination.