Forensic Graphology in the Technological Age

The field of Forensic Graphology, the analysis and identification of forgeries, authenticity checks on documents and signatures, has always fascinated people. This intriguing field incorporates several disciplines – psychology, graphology, law, investigations and technology. If once specialization in a single field, graphology, sufficed, today without up to date, well-founded knowledge in the other fields, professionals are likely to make serious mistakes in their assessments of the case in question. The ready availability of technological resources has greatly increased in recent years, has entirely altered the profession, and has required additional specialties and professionalism beyond just graphology. Today the forensic graphologist who relies simply on the traditional technologies of magnifying glass and examination under strong light is likely to make a mis-assessment of the case on which an expert opinion is required.

Some examples:

In the not too distant past, when a forger sought to study the signature of someone else, he had at his disposal several well-know methods:

1. Imitation of the general shape of the signature as the forger perceived it, which generally caused the signature to turn out too different from the model being copied, making it easy to identify the forgery.

2. Another possibility was using a light table, or copying by sticking to an illuminated window so that the signature shows through the sheet, and then to carefully trace the form of the signature to be forged so that it will be almost a one for one copy. Identifying this type of forgery by a graphologist was done by determining that the line making up the new, forged signature was one that shook a bit, was unstable, with occasional breaks, slower and not spontaneous. This principle of a drop in the level of the writing is a well-established one used in the identification of forgeries.

Graphologists working a long time in the legal field are well acquainted with these methods. However, forgers have available the simple, easily accessible technique of "cut and paste". That is to say, the forger can scan the signature of the person he wishes to copy, from a document that is not in dispute, edit the document, copy and paste the signature into the new, forged document.

This type of forgery can almost only be identified by seeing the original, disputed document, and only then can the paste be discerned, both because it does not have the color of the ink, and also because it lacks the pressure of the writing instrument that should exist on the original.

An anecdote – it often happens that a forger is tempted to repeatedly use the same signature he has copied, and paste it into various documents. By doing this he makes much easier the life of the graphologist who is evaluating forgeries, since a person is never capable to create the exact same signature more than once.

Another example – in the past, the tool available to the forensic graphologist who wanted to magnify the writing he was examining, was a magnifying glass.

Up until today quite a few graphologists use a picture of a magnifying glass as their logo or on their website as an illustration. Magnifying glasses can be found in the stores up to a strength of times 5. In specialist stores magnifying glasses can also be found up to the power of 10. But this not always sufficient! Sometimes, when one wants to see the construction of the writing line, and one wants to decipher tiny, unapparent movements that the forger has made, considerably greater magnification is required. In the past my colleagues and I would purchase microscopes that could magnify 20 times, which were extremely expensive. Yet today using image editing software that is available to all as part of the Office package on our computers, it is possible to magnify up to hundreds of percent the writing being analyzed. Simply do a high quality scan and then magnify without any limits, until you see what you need. For example, sometimes it is a matter of how the fibers of the paper absorb the ink. This much enhanced assessment capability makes it much harder for forgers to carry out their work without being caught.

So interestingly, as a result of a large number of evaluations, it emerges that together with the ability to use available technology to do better forgeries, this same availability also assists the professional, the forensic graphologist, to discover the tiniest, new traces that the forgers have left behind them.