The Tell-tale Signs of an Unauthentic Document

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It's easy for people to get caught up in their own narrative and forget that not everything they see or hear is true. We can unintentionally embellish our own stories to make ourselves look better or even feel better about the truth. It is this myth that any person is incapable of lying, which is why people are becoming more and more inclined towards authenticating documents, especially those including a signature, hallmarks, or stamps indicating authenticity. Here are the tell-tale signs of an unauthentic document.

1. Wording

One huge factor that can help determine a document's authenticity is the wording. This may be obvious to some; if you are to counterfeit a document, signature, or stamp, you have to make sure that it reads exactly like the original. When reviewing a forgery, you may find that the wording will be slightly altered, oftentimes done so to close loopholes. This should easily be spotted by someone who is familiar with the original document, but unfortunately, not all documents are reviewed with such diligence.

2. Formatting and Style

Many official documents are limited to a certain format and style.If you have an authentic document, you may determine that it is not real by looking for formatting errors. For example, if you find that there there are anomalies in the way lines are spaced or sections are organized, this should raise questions. An authentic document is usually organized in a clear, easy-to-follow format and follows standards for the time and place it was drafted.

3. Typesetting

The format in which a document is laid out and the fonts used can be an indication of its authenticity. If you notice slight differences in how a page is set up or certain typesetting elements appear to be missing from it, chances are that it is not authentic. Usually, even documents that have been photocopied or scanned will retain the original layout, but if you have an electronic copy of a paper document, this cannot be guaranteed.

4. Details

Another tell-tale sign to look out for in an unauthentic document is the detail within it. Details such as names, dates, and personal info should obviously be accurate, but some forgers aren't so keen. For example, birth certificates include a plethora of personal information that can easily be checked for accuracy. If the birth certificate indicates the birth year of 1975, instead of the true birth year of 1974, you may suspect that the document is fake. Although this is a simple example, all documents contain a wide scope of small details such as this so it's important to double-check everything.

5. Omitted Details

Omitted details might be an obvious giveaway because most documents are written to be highly detailed and thorough. Detail omission can also be the very reason a document is forged in the first place as one may take to forgery to keep certain details off record. If you have a counterfeit bill or spreadsheet, consider how much information has been left out and whether it makes sense to have those details missing.

6. Font

The font used in an authentic document is usually unique, whereas the fonts selected for a counterfeit document tend to be more generic. This is likely due to the fact that the creator of the forgery doesn't have the time or resources to replicate unique fonts. So instead of matching the original document exactly, they will use generic fonts as a shortcut. Counterfeiters make this very common mistake and something you will see in many unauthentic documents.

Similar to font, signatures are often utilized on official documents and are always unique yet consistent to the individual. Signatures are one of the most common items to be forged on legal documents. Forgers will go to great lengths to match a person's unique signature, a forensic document examiner may be enlisted to help verify its authenticity. A forged signature can look nearly identical to the layman, but professional examiners will look for fine details such as pen pressure, pen lifts, and signs of retouching.


As you can see, there are many ways to determine whether a document is authentic or not. A lot of these indicators will be obvious, but unless a document is reviewed thoroughly, they can easily be missed. If you're ever unsure about a document's authenticity, it's worth asking for professional help. The cost of having a document examined professionally comes at a cost, but if something in it affects your life drastically, it is worth every penny.

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