The copying or modification of official government issued identity documents by people who do not the authority to do so. Done with the intention to deceive and disrupt.

Examples of forged documents are drivers licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, and passports. These forged documents are used for the purposes of consuming alcohol under the legal age, identity theft, and to gain entry into foreign countries.

A document is defined as "anything that bears marks, signs, or symbols which have meaning or conveys a message to someone."

Forensic Document Examiners work to prove authenticity in cases of suspected forgery. This field is primarily used to help solve crimes related to money.


Forensic Document Examiner as a Career

To become a forensic document examiner, there is no direct path. There are no college programs or diplomas that will qualify an individual to become a document examiner. It is suggested to earn a minimum of a bachelors degree in one of the natural sciences, followed by a minimum of a two year apprenticeship under an expert examiner.
The starting wage is about $41,600 annually, and can reach up to $108,435 by the end of an examiner's career.
Usually, DEs are employed by the federal, state, or local government law agencies. In some cases, examiners establish small consulting groups or work alone as private consultants.
This is a growing field, but very competitive. There is a higher likely for employment with extensive networking, which can be accomplished during the apprenticeship period.
It is imperative that DEs have excellent eyesight, and it is mandatory for them to undergo vision tests that confirm their ability to distinguish colours, forms, and distances.

Work Environment

The primary work environment is offices or laboratories for private investigative firms, attorney's offices or government agencies.
Making use of computers, micro analysis and other technology, they examine documents to determine their authenticity.

Case Example Frank Abagnale Jr.

Early Life:
Frank Abagnale Jr. was born in Bronxville New York in April of 1948. Frank grew up with a lovely family and had a happy childhood. When his mother left unexpectedly, he became very close with his father and tagged along often on his dad's business dealings in the stationary industry. It was during this time that Frank Jr. learned a lot about white collar businesses.
Frank Jr. became involved with petty crimes in his teenage years such as shoplifting. Soon, he grew bored, and transitioned into more sophisticated crimes. His first "scam" involved him using his father's gas credit card. He would convince the gas station attendants to give him a portion of his sale back in cash, and would allow them to take a portion of the proceeds. It soon came to a stop when his father was struck with a credit card bill topping several thousand dollars. His father became tired of Frank Jr.'s delinquency, and sent him to a private school. Unhappy with that decision, Frank Jr. took it upon himself to leave home at the age of 16. He left with only $200 and no formal education. He used his knowledge of the stationary business, to alter his drivers license, making himself appear 10 years older, as well as exaggerate his education level. This helped him get better paying jobs, but was still unable to support himself financially. After quitting his job, he began using his check book to write bad checks. Abagnale wrote hundreds of bad checks and had overdrawn his account by thousands of dollars. Knowing he would eventually be caught, he decided it was time to go into hiding.

His Scams:

He knew that with a more impassive and dazzling personality, he would continue being able to cash checks. He also decided that as pilots were highly respected, that he would scheme his way into getting a pilot's uniform. From here, he learned all he could about flying and forged his own pilot's ID and FAA license. He pretended to be a student doing a research paper, as well he dated a stewardess earn valuable information about how to impersonate a pilot. He used this in order to hitch rides on planes all across the world. Soon enough the airline caught on to his scam and once again he decided to change identities.


Now, Frank became an out-of-town doctor taking a sabbatical in Atlanta, Georgia. He became a regular visitor at the local hospital and used their medical library to learn about his new role as a pediatrician. His intelligence and incredible bedside manner led him to a temporary job supervising medical interns, and he was even promoted to resident supervisor and given authorization to temporarily practice medicine in the state of Georgia. He gave up his new persona when it nearly cost the life of a child, so Frank left town.
Bouncing from job to job, Frank even forged a passing on the bar exam and practiced law. He chose the honest lifestyle after scamming nearly $300,000, but was recognized by an ex girlfriend who gave him up to the police.

Serving time in France, Sweden, and the US, Frank was eventually granted parole by the United States. At the age of 26, Frank made a deal with the government. Abagnale would educate them about his methods, so to prevent others from defrauding the government. For more than 30 years, he worked for the FBI as one of the worlds foremost authorities on document fraud, check swindling, forgery and embezzlement. He even started his own company. Abagnale & Associates educated others on how to avoid becoming victims of fraud. Abagnale also wrote The Art of the Steal and Stealing Your Life, which were both about fraud prevention.

In 2002, Catch Me If You Can, was made by Steven Spielberg. Based on Abagnale's life, Leonardo DiCaprio starred as the famous impostor.
"Catch Me if You Can" trailer


Essentials pf Forensic Science - Science vs. Crime by Max M Houck