I am often asked to verify whether a particular document is an original document or a good quality colour photocopy or printout.
There are a few things to consider here. The first thing is to make sure that the whole document is examined. The signature page may be of most importance but every page should be examined to make sure that the document as a whole is consistent and shows no evidence of any alterations, insertions or deletions.
Microscopic examination of the individual pages will reveal the print method used. Photocopy, laser printer and inkjet printer production methods all have a distinctive appearance. The print method should be consistent between pages – if it is not this would be unusual and would require further investigation to see if there is a reasonable explanation for this. Fonts, document format and paper type should also be consistent. If more than one laser printer is suspected of creating the document there are tools available to help rule this in or out.
This document was presented as an original. Microscopic examination of the wet ink signature showed it to be from an inkjet printer. Note the signs of ink droplets (A) and colour (B) in the supposedly black wet ink signature.
The wet ink signatures should then be examined under a microscope to determine if they are indeed wet ink signatures or the product of a colour print process. Ball point pens, roller balls, gel pens, fibre tips and fountain pens all have a distinctive appearance under the microscope and can be distinguished from a colour print or copy process. Caution with evaluating signature indentations is advisable as they may or may not be present depending on the writing instrument used and the amount of pressure applied by the writer. Documents that have been stored in a humid environment over a long period of time may also have lost any indentations. Oblique infra-red lighting can help as it visually “removes” most ink types and helps highlight any signature indentations.
A competent Document Examiner will apply the methods mentioned above and others to help determine if your document is an original or not. They will then capture photographs to help demonstrate any opinion in an expert witness report.