Document tampering is the act of modifying the physical properties of a document after it has been signed and concluded by the parties. It may take the form of page substitution, erasure, date alteration or content insertion after the contractual date.
Tampering leaves a paper trail of evidence that can be uncovered using special equipment and techniques. These include microscopic examination under ultraviolet or infrared lighting.
Inconsistencies of layout, spacing and font size are important clues to this form of document fraud. When an existing page has been removed and a new page inserted into the document, false initials and/or signatures may also be present. Punch holes and staple holes should be checked, as well as inconsistencies of page numbering and/or paragraph numbering.
The perpetrator combines sections of several different contracts in order to create the appearance of one complete contract. Clues include different sets of initials and differences in layout and font styles.
INSERTION OF TEXT
Extra text might be squeezed into the document, sometimes in handwriting, sometimes in printed text. If a page seems to be tightly packed with text, compared to the other pages of the document, this is a red flag that additional text may have been inserted.
There are many forms of erasure that can take place in cases of document fraud. For example, pencil writing can be erased with an ordinary rubber eraser. Text can be covered with Tip-Ex and then overwritten. The unwanted text can be scribbled out or even scraped off. Attempts to change or remove text can be made by means of chemical erasure by placing a drop of solvent onto the paper. In most of these cases, special lighting techniques are used to reveal the nature of the ‘cover-up’ and to reveal the original text beneath.
Indentations are the grooves left by handwriting, signatures or initials that were written with a ballpoint pen, on the page underneath the writing. Uncovering these invisible traces can have an important role to play when investigating document fraud. Special lighting techniques are used to reveal indentations.
Types of cases involving document tampering
- Sick note fraud: alteration of dates and names.
- Contract fraud: combining sections of contracts, inserting or deleting text or date manipulation.
- Disputed wills: page substitution, inserting text.
- Human Resources cases – fraudulent preparation of time sheets and records