Thursday, June 17, 2010

Questioned Document Basics

From Evidence Technology Magazine: "... A well-trained document examiner knows to examine all the physical features of a questioned document, not just the questioned signature. There are dozens of components to consider when examining a signature or a document. Characteristics to consider include the writing medium used and the surface it is written upon, the age of the paper or ink, and watermarks.

There are deletions, alterations, inclusions, and other aspects that must be considered, as well. The evaluation of letter formations, pen strokes, pen pressure, spacing, letter height, relation to the baseline, and slant are all part of the evaluation process.

When a document is typewritten, there are other problems to consider. Was a page added after the fact? Is the page a copy? Did someone possibly apply “white out” on the original, type over it, and then make a copy so that it looks like an original? Was another typewriter used to make the forgery or the added page? And what about a computer-generated document? Are the pages all from the same ream of paper? With technology such as infrared and ultraviolet light sources, these questions can be answered.

On a daily basis, document examiners are faced with a multitude of questioned-document problems. The most common cases, for example, involve forged checks, forged wills, graffiti, credit-card fraud, leases, deeds, contracts to purchase items—including homes, cars, and businesses—mortgage fraud, disguised writing, and poison-pen letters (hate letters). With the improved technology of printers and copiers, forging and counterfeiting is rampant through the use of “cut and paste” and “lifting signatures”.

It is well known that the field of digital science is constantly evolving. As new technology becomes available, the document examiner must stay on top of the latest state-of-the-art and work to anticipate the ways criminals may use new technology to their advantage. The certified forensic document examiner must utilize all the latest techniques and technology that science has to offer when examining questioned documents. When investigating digital crimes—crimes such as forged passports, driver’s licenses, computer-generated documents, and digital images inserted into other items—document examiners are referred to as digital-crime investigators.

Click here to read the whole article.


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