Monday, May 08, 2006

Forensic Forgery?

One task of a forensic document examiner (often referred to as a handwriting expert) is to examine signatures in an effort to determine if a signature is the genuine signature of the purported signatory or whether it was written by someone else. In other words, he is asked to determine if the signature is a forgery, although document examiners do not like to use that term.

In that regard, I had an unusual call this week. The caller, who remained anonymous, did not want me to determine if a signature was forgery. The caller wanted me to forge the signature of long-dead movie star. The caller was emphatic that the signature was not for any nefarious purpose; it was merely needed to replace one that had been lost. I politely refused. I explained that my skill was in the detection, not the creation, of forgery. Furthermore, even if I could, I would not. The caller then asked for the name of someone else who could help. I explained that I did not know such a person. Not wanting to give up so easily, the caller asked under what category a person so skilled might advertise. I told the caller that I did not think such a category existed. Forgers are not likely to advertise in the yellow pages.

A forensic document examiner is a handwriting expert, but let it be clearly understood: The job of a document examiner is to detect handwriting forgeries, not create them.