We might live in a digital world but old fashioned pen on paper still has its place, particularly when it comes to signing important documents. To the untrained eye, the signature might look the same but imagine the consequences if the signature on a document didn’t belong to the person who was supposed to have signed it? For this very reason a process known as signature forensics exists, to determine the authorship of a written signature.
Criminals and people looking to exploit a situation may forge the signature upon a document in order to benefit from it in some way. Those who are in receipt of the document or who are the supposed authors or benefactors may believe that this signature has been forged but do not know how to prove it. This is where the services of a forensic signature expert can be utilised.
What does a forensic signature expert do?
A forensic signature expert is a qualified professional who has trained in forensic science and uses specialist equipment and standard procedures to spot the very subtle differences that may appear between one signature and the next. In order to determine whether a particular signature has been forged they will need specimen signatures from the original author, to compare against the signature in question. To help the signature expert to reach the most accurate conclusion, these sample signatures should be written at around the same time as the questioned document (as handwriting style can change as we age) and be original copies.
What will they look for?
When undertaking a forensic signature comparison, the signature expert will analyse and examine the writing style, the way the letters have been formed, the spaces between letters, the height of letters, the pressure applied to the pen and when it has been momentarily lifted off the paper. They may also be able to examine the indented impressions left behind on another sheet of paper within the same document, as it is common for people to fold over the back page that needs signing so that it is resting on the back on the front page. This can provide further clues as to who the author is.
When might you need signature forensics?
If you think that a document in your possession or that affects you, such as a will, guarantee or tenancy agreement has been fraudulently signed you can contact a forensic signature expert who can examine past signatures from the person in question to determine whether the signature is genuine or not. The consequences of a forged signature can be dire as for a document to be legally valid it needs to have been signed by the correct person. For example, this situation often occurs in cases of contested wills where the beneficiaries claim that the person making the will did not sign the document. Whilst this can be difficult to prove in court, those cases that are won usually rely on the input of a signature forensics expert.
When searching for the services of a forensic signature expert there are few things to look out for to make sure you have a qualified professional in your corner, these include:
- Training – ensure your expert has completed at least 2 years of training with a recognised forensic laboratory, as hands-on practical experience is vital to this profession.
- Experience – if you think you may need to go to court then you’ll want to ensure your signature expert has experience of criminal and civil cases and can write court compliant reports.
Overall it is important that you feel comfortable in their experience and expertise and that they demonstrate this through their website or communications with you.
You can visit the Cosslett and Barr website for more information on signature forensics or for advice on what to do if you suspect a signature has been forged.