Document Examiners vs. Graphologists

If you are interested in hiring a handwriting expert to help you out with a legal case or an investigation of some kind, you will likely find two types of people who will claim to be able to help you – forensic document examiners and graphologists. However, you should not confuse one for the other, as they each serve very specific purposes and have different areas of specialization. You could actually run into a lot of trouble if you seek the services provided by a forensic document examiner and select a graphologist instead.

Document Examination vs. GraphologyForensic document examiners are able to take a look at a document and provide you with a wide range of professional feedback. They can perform handwriting comparisons, document authentication and signature authentication using known and reliable techniques to prove or disprove authenticity, as the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners notes. In addition, FDEs may be able to determine the approximate age of a document, reveal whether or not alterations have been made to a document, and even decipher documents that have been damaged or charred.

By definition, graphologists are not qualified to provide these services. Rather, the field of graphology – sometimes called graphoanalysis – relies exclusively on using handwriting to attempt to interpret the personality and character of a person. They cannot authenticate documents or offer up any advice on the authenticity of a document that would hold up in a court of law. And, in fact, there have been some legal cases in which the use of a graphologist has been disallowed. This includes a case involving an insurance company in 2006 in which lawyers used graphologist Curtis Baggett instead of a document examiner to build their case, causing the judge to rule that Baggett wasn’t qualified to “testify in this case as an expert in the field of handwriting analysis and document examination.”

Why put yourself through the trouble of calling on a graphologist who cannot face the scrutiny of qualifying in a court of law when what you really need is a well-trained forensic document examiner to investigate and determine the true history of a disputed document? Drexler Document Lab can offer you the comprehensive document examination, verification and authentication services you are looking for and explain why you should work with us as opposed to a graphologist who cannot provide you with true and reliable opinion that will hold up in court. Call us at 844-373-9522 today to learn about how one of our highly skilled document examiners can help you.

The Salamander Letter: Forgery in the Mormon Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or more commonly as the Mormon church, has been rocked by numerous scandals throughout the years. One of the church’s biggest scandals, though, took place back in 1984 and involved what was known as the Salamander Letter.

The Salamander LetterThis letter that appeared to include correspondence between early Latter-day Saints convert Martin Harris and W.W. Phelps, one of the first leaders of the Latter-day Saints movement, and it seemed to allude to the true origin of the “gold plates” that founder Joseph Smith used to put together the Book of Mormon, the sacred text used by the LDS church. Specifically, the letter suggested there was a magical component to Smith’s discovery of the plates, says Times and Seasons, which would have rocked the LDS community at the time.

In the letter, a salamander spirit was believed to have been guarding the plates and demanded that Smith bring his deceased brother to him to get the plates. This implied that folk magic was involved in the early development of the Book of Mormon – not simply just a practice that Smith abandoned earlier in his life. If true, this letter would have stirred an immense controversy in the beliefs of the Mormon church.

However, in actuality, the letter was a forgery. Mark Hofmann, a notable counterfeiter and forger – who is currently serving a life sentence for attempted murder, as KSL Newsradio in Utah notes – approached LDS leaders and told them he had “found” documents that would portray the church in a negative light. He then attempted to sell many of the documents to the church since he believed they would want to hide them and prevent LDS followers from accessing them. He was successful in selling many of them and, for a time, there were church leaders who believed the Salamander Letter to be authentic.

Hofmann was such a skilled forger that the letter looked and felt like it had been written in 1830. According to a report from D. van der Reyden posted by the Smithsonian, Hofmann used some interesting methods to achieve the forgeries. For instance, he used hydrogen peroxide – the same that may be in your medicine cabinet – to create an artificially aged look through oxidization. However, as the report says, his forgeries became suspect when high-power magnification showed the ink was cracking strangely on the documents and in a manner inconsistent with what would be expected from authentic aging.

But it turned out that the Salamander Letter was just the tip of a much larger web of deceit and deception. As the Deseret News discusses, documents are still being uncovered today that Hofmann had a hand in forging. He had forged perhaps thousands of documents, continuing to play collectors and document enthusiasts against one another for years until finally his past caught up to him, and after setting off pipe bombs that killed two and injured himself, an investigation by the Salt Lake City Police Department uncovered the truth.

Hofmann’s attempt at duping the LDS Church with the forged Salamander Letter is a good example of just how far forgers will go to try and trick people, and the great degree of success that he saw is a prime example of how easy it can be to pass off a document as legitimate – at least to the untrained eye. Fortunately, at Drexler Document Lab, we have decades of knowledge and experience and can examine any suspected forgery to try to validate it or prove its falsehood. Learn more by calling Drexler Document Lab at 844-373-9522 today.

Beyond Handwriting: Other Ways to Identify Document Issues

At Drexler Document Lab, we deal with many people’s concerns regarding the validity and authenticity of a range of documents, including examining the handwriting that can be found on any given document for signs of alteration of forgery. But that’s not all we do. We have an extensive list of services that can be of great help for criminal cases, disputes or general inquiries.

Ink Differentiation

Our ink differentiation and analysis service allows us to review a document to see if more than one kind of ink was used, possibly in an attempt to alter the document. Though it may be hard to see with the naked eye, our technology allows us to compare inks and carefully analyze the writing or signatures on a document to determine authenticity and to see if anything has been altered or changed.

Document ForgeryCheck Writing Machine Identification

Just like different people have different fingerprints, check writing machines often have small defects in their operation which gives us the opportunity to identify the exact machine that produced a given check. With check writing machine identification, we can compare a specific check you may have to the manufacturing of the source machine or samples from the machine. If we can recreate or identify the same type of inconsistency or specific unique marking – with a stray mark or blemish, for example, the exact machine that created the check in question can be identified – we can verify the authenticity of your check.

Staple Mark Identification

How could the location of a staple possibly influence a fraud investigation? You may be surprised. Often, we can determine the fraudulent insertion of a problem document with staple mark identification. By analyzing subsequent documents and reviewing the position of marks where pages have been stapled, unstapled, and then stapled again, we may be able to identify an inconsistency in the staple holes and a symptom of alteration from the original sequence of documents.

Typewriter Comparisons and Identification

If a questionable document was produced using a typewriter, we can often go in and determine which typewriter was used. Typewriter comparison and identification can either identify the manufacturer of the typewriter by examination of the type style and character spacings or, if the questioned typewriter has defects in the typeface or mechanical operation, these “unique” defects can be used as clues to possibly identify the exact machine that produced the document in question. Take for example the case of Rathergate, which we recently discussed on our blog. Knowing how a document was produced can make a world of difference in a variety of situations.

Document Age Analysis

Many times, a document is said to be created on a given date, but soon after, that origination date may come into question. By using document age analysis, we can analyze individual parts of the document to determine its true age. Sometimes we can identify watermarks, typesetting styles or specific character production methods to not only pinpoint the method by which a document was made, but also the original creation date of a work, helping to verify or invalidate claims as to its authenticity.

These are just a few of the many services we provide here at Drexler Document Lab. If you have a suspicious document or suspect a forgery, our expertise can help you uncover the truth. Give us a call at 205-685-9985 to discuss your document issues and schedule a consultation today.

Certifying Documents: What We Learned from Dan Rather

It was meant to be a breaking story about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service, but it ended up getting four CBS News employees terminated for presenting a tale that wasn’t entirely true. The story, which aired in 2004, was reported in the midst of the race for president between Bush and Sen. John Kerry, and ended up being one of the biggest cases of the importance of certifying documents thus far in the 21st century.

Originally reported by Dan Rather, the news story was based on four documents that the reporters stated were written on a typewriter by Col. Jerry Killian, one of Bush’s Texas Air National Guard commanders back in the early 1970s. The letters were supposed to be things of great history, but there was a problem – they were forgeries.

The documents, which suggested that Bush disobeyed a direct order to appear for a physical exam in addition to stating that his time in the service may not have been as heroic as some may have thought, probably weren’t typewritten at all. Instead, many experts believe that they were written on a modern word processor.

After CBS News could not prove the authenticity of the documents, an investigation was launched. Led by a certified forensic document examiner, an investigative panel identified 10 defects in the story, including the fact that a typewriter produced in 1972 just could not have written them.

How Did They Make the Ruling?

Many experts were brought in throughout the course of “Rathergate,” and they all brought their expert analysis to bear in examining the factual and production flaws in the documents.

Several factors went into falsifying the use of a 1972 typewriter. For one, there are several instances of the letter “f” overlapping the beginning of the next letter, which was a feat that could not have been achieved by even the best typewriters of the 1970s, noted Carnegie Mellon University professor Joseph M. Newcomer in an article in The Washington Post.

Other tests showed that the font widths in the documents were not possible on any typewriters from the year they were supposedly written. Also, the use of a raised and compact “th” symbol and the letter spacing was atypical for typewriters of the era, according to technology consultant Bill Glennon, speaking to Time magazine.

The New York Post also investigatedElectric Typewriter the problems uncovered dealing with the authenticity of these documents.  Previous investigations found that the specific model of typewriter used was an IBM Selectric II, and in the Post’s investigation, the newspaper found several inconsistencies with the documents.  At the time the Rather documents were purported to have been produced, no commercial office machine was available that could perform certain functions that were used in creating the documents.  Examples of anachronistic technologies included the ability to center the header, the use of Times New Roman font, the option to select a superscript function and the presence of a specific spacing of letters (proportional spacing).  In addition, the paper reported they had created a better – and near identical – reproduction when using an IBM Selectric Composer typesetter.  Records show, however, that this type of office machine was not commercially available and not at Bush’s National Guard base at the time the documents were produced.

One of the first document examiners brought in by CBS, Linda James, cautioned producers that there were clear problems and she could not rule out the possibility that the key documents to the story were fraudulent and may have been produced on a computer.

“The package wasn’t ready. It didn’t meet authenticating (standards),” James said she told CBS in an interview with The Washington Post. Most telling, James warned “if they ran (the story), that the problems I saw … other document examiners would see.”

In the end, the scandal brought up the often forgotten fact that modern journalism can sometimes be more about ratings than journalistic integrity. The station learned that the hard way, and Rather stepped down from the evening news desk soon after.

These days, Drexler Document Laboratory is synonymous with quality document examination and handwriting verification, and we are skilled at handling projects big and small. While you may not be trying to verify the authenticity of a potential breaking news story, we can put our knowledge and skills to use in verifying the authenticity of your document or disputed handwriting. To learn more, call us today at 844-373-9522.

Identifying Altered Documents

At Drexler Document Lab, we specialize in ensuring the security and integrity of your most precious and irreplaceable documents. We review contracts, checks, historical records and more to verify that all information is authentic and that the paperwork has not been modified after its original creation.

Even though technology has advanced and digitized documents have become mainstream, many people and companies still rely on paper checks and written documents to conduct their business. When you rely on paper documents, however, there is always the potential for your documents to be exploited by identity thieves, forgers and more.

To show just how much we know about how professional criminals can alter your documents and checks, we’ve compiled a few tips that you can use to identify these devious tricks.

Identifying Bogus Checks

Many fake checks employ little tricks that deceive you into believing that it is the real deal. One quick way to check that you’re not dealing with a forgery is to make sure that the check number is the same as the last numbers at the bottom of the check. Also, verify that the check has perforations along the edges, as a check without perforations could mean that it was created using a home printer. Finally, check for stains around the signature as they could be signs that the original signature was erased.

ForgerySpotting Forged Documents

When it comes to documents, remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is, especially for letters you receive that state that you have won something. If you receive a letter in the mail and the salutation is “Dear Friend” instead of your real name, this could be a red flag.

If the company name looks suspicious, do some research on them online. The same goes for phone numbers and addresses – do not call or send anything until you verify that they are legitimate. The most experienced criminals can send you a letter that appears to be from a recognized company that asks you to send in a payment, only to provide a falsified address so that they can keep the money for themselves.

Although you can do much of this sleuthing yourself, you can never truly catch everything on your own, and that is why our addition and deletion identification services can be so beneficial to your home or business. If you have any reservations about the authenticity of a document or you suspect forgery or fraud, we can help analyze your document and determine if it’s an authentic document or a reproduction or forgery.

To learn more or to request an analysis of your suspicious document, call Drexler Document Laboratory today at 844-373-9522.

Historical Handwriting and Its Impact in Colonial Times

The Impact of Handwriting on History You may not think about it as you scribble your grocery list on a notepad, but those letters you’re using weren’t always the way people communicated. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians used hieroglyphics, messages with a mixture of alphabetic and representational images to convey messages. Even as recently as Colonial times in America, when writing was considered a skill set that only few had, letters and handwriting varied drastically from one class of society to another. A recent article by The Atlas Obscura tells us more.

During Colonial times in America, reading was valued as a more important skillset than writing. Most children learned to read at home from a family member who used the Bible as their main tool. Once a child could read, only very few were then taught how to write.

People who learned to write often did so because their profession demanded it – lawyers, doctors and those with religious duties were often the only people who could write. However, as literacy increased among the residents in the 13 colonies, so did peoples’ interest in the act of writing. And they didn’t focus so much on what they were actually writing about, so much as how they were writing their letters.

As a result, many distinctive handwriting styles arose among the different groups of Colonials who were writing. For example, merchants might learn “round text,” which was a thin line with a slight tilt, or “round hand,” which was a more embellished version of round text. Women would learn a different and more delicate handwriting style. Ornate capital letters and flourishes acted as personal signatures or trademarks.

With all the varying styles of this time, and the way that someone might insert a personal signature or flourish into their capital B’s, oftentimes, you can tell who wrote a document simply by looking at the lettering. If you aren’t able to narrow it down to a specific person, you can often at least identify their profession by just their font style alone!

As the years went on and the educational system grew, literacy increased and handwriting became less and less proof of one’s social status. Handwriting today cannot provide the expert clues to one’s class, however it does allow the trained and experienced examiner to eliminate or identify possible the author(s) of a body of disputed writing.

Can you imagine if all lawyers had the same handwriting style, and all businessmen had a different one still today? Perhaps every time you saw Arial font in an email, it was a message from your doctor, while your church only sent out missive in Times New Roman – what a world that would be!

If you have a questioned or disputed document that you would like to have examined, our handwriting experts may be able to help you. To learn more, call us today at 844-373-9522!

Forgery at its Finest

criminalMany of the crimes we see committed today are serious offenses such as murder, vehicular manslaughter, assault or even burglary. When we think of crimes being committed, rarely do we ever think of something being stolen through the use of forgery anymore, but as we’ve seen in the past and in Spielberg’s famous movie Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale was a mastermind behind the forging efforts. Furthermore, what we believe in this film to be mostly a farce actually ends up being mostly accurate, Abagnale was indeed a master thief through the use of fraud.

 
Frank W. Abagnale, a once highly sought after forger back in his day can attest to the fact that money is stolen all the time through the use of forgery. Abagnale began his own life of crime when he was only a teenager by first altering the age on his license to make himself appear 10 years older than he really was. This was accomplished by just changing a single number on the identification of the individual.

 

This then lead Frank to the idea of opening up his own bank account, and when we say his own we mean his own. Frank would print his account number in magnetic ink on the deposit slips and return them to the bank counter. By the time they realized this forgery, Frank had made nearly $40,000 or more and would have changed his identity already.

 
With this strategy, Frank would work the system for more than $2.5 million, and would become one of the most wanted criminals in the world for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After serving five years in Prison throughout various countries, Frank would start a normal life and become a leading consultant in the area of document forgery and fraudulence in the FBI for more than 25 years. Frank would then go on to teach how to detect forgery, avoid consumer fraud and prevent crimes like these.

High-Profile Cases Cracked with Handwriting Analysis

morgue tray Expert forensic analysts closely examine individual characteristics on a microscopic level to identify criminals and verify document authenticity. The numerous criminals suspected, caught and convicted based on nothing more than a writing sample or a single strand of hair is astounding, a number that will continue growing.

 
Robert Durst
Robert Durst was suspected of murdering Susan Berman ever since her murder in 2000. But there was no physical evidence tying him to the case. Found dead with a gunshot to the back of the head, Berman was a longtime friend to Durst. But letters between the two suggested they didn’t share the friendliest of relations.

 
Among the evidence against Durst is a handwritten letter sent to Berman in 1999. The writing in this letter was matched to an anonymous note sent to Beverly Hills police at the time of Berman’s killing, using identical block form writing with all capital letters. It not only informed the police of information only the killer would have known, but also shared the same misspelling of Beverly Hills; “Beverley Hills.”

 
BTK Killer
Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) Killer terrorized the Wichita, KS area for nearly two decades. Having tortured 10 known victims between 1974 and 1991, Rader wasn’t even suspected until nearly fifteen years after his final victim was murdered.

 
In 2005, well after the BTK case was ice cold with no leads whatsoever, Rader was suddenly a prime suspect. That’s because it was then he initiated a series of communications with the media.
Though the ace in the hole for the prosecution was tracing contact information Rader inadvertently provided police on a computer floppy disk, once he was tracked they were also able to forensically match a series of handwritten letters. These were the handwritten letters he sent to police in order to communicate and garner media attention and strike fear into the hearts of the public. It was ultimately this need for media attention- along with his ignorance- which finally put him away for life.

More Infamous Cases Cracked Using Forensics

DNA TestingExpert forensic analysts closely examine individual characteristics on a microscopic level to identify criminals and verify document authenticity. The numerous criminals suspected, caught and convicted based on nothing more than a writing sample or a single strand of hair is astounding, a number that will continue growing.

Boston Strangler

Even though scientific forensic analysis based on DNA matching is a relatively new method of catching criminals, it is still being used to confirm uncertain closed cases. The Boston Strangler, for example, was one just case. Back in 1964, Albert DeSalvo killed his last of 11 confirmed victims- a 19 year old from Cape Cod in the trendy Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston.
Showing a pattern of raping and strangling his victims, the Boston Strangler was linked to 11 deaths from 1962 to 1964. It was his last victim, though, which confirmed he was the murderer with 99.9% certainty 39 years later. That’s because Boston police were unable to make a definitive connection without DNA evidence. Taken from a living relative, DNA from DeSalvo was matched to DNA found at the crime scene in 2013.

The Night Stalker

The Night Stalker not unlike the Boston Strangler terrorized women, but unlike the ‘Strangler,’ the Night Stalker murdered in the early 80’s. This was soon after the introduction of a central fingerprint-matching database. Having launched his reign of terror in the summer of 1984, the Night Stalker got away with his shameful behavior, tormenting Southern California, until August 1985.

The Night Stalker would break into victims’ homes as they slept, attacking and murdering 13, while assaulting countless others. But on that fateful late summer night in 1985, a vigilant citizen noticed a suspicious vehicle in the area of the Night Stalker’s latest attack. Found abandoned, the car was investigated, turning up a very useful fingerprint. Using the cutting-edge fingerprint-matching database system, it was quickly matched to 25-year-old Richard Ramirez. He was was recognized and captured by local citizens within one week.

Cases Closed Thanks to Forensic Analysis

Expert forensic analysts closely examine individual characteristics on a microscopic level to identify criminals and verify document authenticity. There have been a number of criminals suspected, caught and convicted based on nothing more than a tiny simple blood spatter or how a suspect might even write their J’s on a ransom note.

 

forensic investigation
Machine Gun Kelly
Many are under the impression the practice forensic analysis is a more contemporary practice. However, dating back to 1933, police were able to bring down George “Machine Gun” Kelly with the fingerprints left by one of his kidnapping victims. Spanning the Prohibition era, Kelly was a notorious bootlegger, kidnapper and extortionist.

 
In 1933 at the pinnacle of his terror, he had kidnapped a wealthy and, unfortunately, crafty oilman known as Charles Urschel. Having extorted the Urschel estate for a $200,000 ransom, the oilman was released nine days later, unharmed. Kelly was Scott-free, $200k richer… or so he thought.

 
The oilman wasn’t a slouch when it came to attention to detail. And he didn’t make a legitimate name for himself being anything less than smart and quick on his feet. The victim was blindfolded the entire time he was in captivity. Regardless, taking note of every possible observation he could, including the time of day he heard planes overhead, allowing the FBI to pinpoint the relative location of captivity. Just to be sure, Urschel was conscious to intentionally leave as many fingerprints as possible to seal Kelly’s fate, who died in jail 21 years later.

 
Ted Bundy
Having committed a suspected 40 or more murders, Ted Bundy was quite the prolific serial killer. Charming, good looking and smart, it was easy for Bundy to lure his numerous, unsuspecting victims. Despite the astronomical number of women killed at his hand, he left behind very little physical evidence.

 
Having been picked up by Colorado Police for nothing more than a single kidnapping charge, Ted Bundy actually escaped custody. Having made it all the way from Aspen Colorado to Florida, he would actually seal his fate, leaving his first traces of physical evidence. Blazing a trail from Aspen to Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and finally, Florida, Bundy committed 3 more murders.

 
During the course of his run across the Midwest and the South, he made one seemingly small but detrimental mistake, having left bite mark impressions on one of his victim’s bodies. Able to match his easily identifiable chipped front tooth to the bite mark, expert witnesses for the prosecution were able to effectively testify with sufficient evidence. A markedly miniscule impression brought down one of the most notoriously intelligent sociopaths in modern criminal history.