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Reading between the lines.

In late 1992,, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) discovered that an employee had been receiving overtime pay for more than a year during a time when the CTA had prohibited such compensation. Supervisors denied authorizing the overtime, yet time sheets provided to the payroll clerk reflected the additional hours. Photocopies of the time sheets maintained where originals were prepared showed no overtime entries. The CTA turned to a forensic document analyst. Using specialized photography, microscopes, and an electrostatic detection apparatus that can reveal where information has been obliterated, erasures were detected on the original. Subsequent handwriting analysis of the alterations on the time sheets and the overtime recipient's original employment application indicated that the overtime entries had been made by the employee receiving the overtime.

Deciphering the origins of a document can be the key in cases ranging from workers' compensation claims to sexual harassment. It can also aid in reconstructing records destroyed in a fire or flood. Understanding document examination techniques can help security managers know when to turn to examination experts for clues.

Forensic document examination may sound futuristic, but document examiners have been uncovering fraud and testifying about forgery since the middle of the nineteenth century. Early practitioners were master penmen who worked in business schools. These schools taught students the principles of handwriting, bookkeeping, accounting, and general office procedures. Because instructors had an extraordinary grasp of handwriting techniques, they were frequently asked to assist in identifying forgeries and the makers of fraudulent documents.

With the development of typewriters, document examiners gradually began to use their skills in identifying individual makes of equipment. Today's practitioners are technologically advanced and deal with a great variety of tasks, including the examination of documents created by copy machines, printing machines, writing instruments, laser printers, ink jet printers and instant photo printers. The identification of the type of device used to create a document is a starting point in man investigations.

But what exactly do forensic document examiners (FDE's) do? An FDE examines, compares, and analyses documents to determine entry authenticity and accuracy. In doing so, examiners decipher alterations, obliterations, additions, and deletions, showing authorship through the examination of handwriting or handprinting or by the source of typewriting, other impressions, marks, or evidence.

Information uncovered by an FDE is admissible in court, and the methods used, such as electrostatic-imaging processes, can yield a permanent copy for later presentation of finding without damaging or altering an original that must serve as evidence in court.

As a whole, the field of forensic document examination is small. According to a leading examiner, James J. Horan, less than 1,000 people in the United States and Canada claim to be practicing FDEs. To be certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, which was established in 1977 to set industry standards, FDEs must complete two years of formal training and two years of supervised work by a recognized expert.

FDEs are employed in all major crime laboratories. At present, the FBI, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Internal Revenue Service have training programs for those interested in entering the profession.

With the use of special equipment, today's FDEs can make extremely precise determinations. One of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the examination of documents is the stereo binocular microscope. This device makes it possible to view typewriting details that can establish when a document was typed and on what type of machine it was prepared. This equipment can also be used to analyze the characteristics of photocopies and the line quality indicative of a forged signature.

Investigators frequently need to determine the source of a photocopied document. Each copy machine has unique marks on its lid, cover, glass, platen, drum, belt, or lens, which appear as trash marks on the copies. Through the use of macrophotography and close examination of the exhibit, these tell-tale signs can be used to trace a document back to a particular copy machine.

With modern laboratory aides, such as digital-imaging equipment, infrared-visualizing apparatus, and electrostatic detection apparatus, FDEs can also tell, in some cases, when entries were made and whether the signature was placed on the document before the typewritten entries appeared on the paper. Examiners can determine whether alterations exist and what original entries were hidden in the process.

Devices - such as typewriting measurement grids, magnifiers, and comparators (small magnifying glasses used for fingerprint examination, which can also be used for comparison of typing marks) - are used to check the spacing and alignment of typewritten entries. It is practically impossible for someone to add a line to a typewritten document and perfectly align it both vertically and horizontally. The type-face and quality of the typewritten letters can also be examined to see if they are in agreement.

Typewriter ribbon examination has entered the computer age with the use of a new tool, known as RAW-1 Ribbon Analysis, by Envisage Systems, Ltd. By recovering the ribbon from a typewriter, an examiner can determine what has been typed, possibly revealing the source of an anonymous letter. RAW-1 is a software program that allows document examiners to transcribe single-strike film typewriter ribbons in a relatively short period of time. A print-out of everything contained on the original ribbon is displayed, typing errors and blemishes included. In the past, the task was done manually, making it labor intensive and time consuming.

Some examination firms maintain a typewriter exemplar file with original samples dating from before the turn of the century. Inks and paper also play an important part in determining authenticity of entries. An examiner may be able to determine whether an entry was later added to an existing record by discovering when an ink was available to the public.

Document examination techniques were given a boost in 1968 when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Crime Laboratory perfected a procedure for identifying components within ink by taking microsamples from a document.(*)

Later, through the collaboration of ink manufacturing companies, tags were placed in the ink formulas that would allow the inks to be identified by year of manufacture.

Ink reference libraries are maintained by the IRS, the Secret Service, and a few ink chemists. When someone claims that an entry was made at a certain time, the item's ink formula can be compared to the reference library and dated. The relative age of two entries can also be determined.

FDEs can decipher erasures and obliterations with a machine used to develop images of latent impressions. This technique can also assist in the reconstruction of burnt, charred, or water damaged documents. When, for example, ruptured underground pipes sent water surging through Chicago businesses in April 1992, buildings were flooded with approximately 20 to 30 feet of water. The vaults in several banks were completely submerged, ruining valuable documents. FDEs were able to decipher entries that were damaged and reconstruct records.

FDEs keep up with technological advances that may present new challenges or opportunities for document examination. The graphic arts industry, for example, is being revolutionized by its move to desktop computer workstations. With these computer systems and laser printers, anyone can now edit reports, save signatures, transpose entries, and create documents, such as counterfeit checks, with ease. It is possible to identify which printer produced a document by identifying types and makes of machines, as well as the toner used and the effect of the machine on the paper passing through the machine to the tray.

A computer enhancement program, known as QDos, enables computer images to be transferred from a video camera to a PC/AT-compatible system, making it possible to capture an image of a signature on the computer. The signature can then be enhanced and analyzed. These images can be put directly into charts, reports, or any other type of material using a laser printer.

Security managers can establish specific policies to facilitate both a document examiner's job and their own investigations. One essential measure is to obtain handwriting standards from all employees. Handwriting exemplar forms are available from most FDEs. These forms vary from examiner to examiner, but they generally require an individual to write out his or her name and address, as well as other names and addresses that show different letter combinations. The person may also be asked to write out lists of dates and dollar amounts.

The forms should be completed when a person is hired. A handwriting sample obtained when an employee is hired eliminates the need to bring a suspect in to complete a handwriting exemplar form in front of a witness at the time of an incident. If a sample is solicited during an investigation, the subject is more apt to disguise his or her handwriting.

Security or human resources personnel may also want to retain handwritten applications, insurance forms, and tax forms in personnel files. These documents can serve as additional handwriting samples.

If a problem occurs, such as an employee receiving an anonymous harassment letter, security can provide an FDE with these samples for suspected individuals. Memos and notes written on desk calendars should also be taken to the examiner, who can compare the ink of an anonymous note with such desk entries.

Handwriting comparisons can be used to demonstrate the effect of drugs and alcohol, as well. A medical consultant may be needed to correlate the observations of the FDE in those cases.

Security managers should obtain samples of type from all the typewriters, copiers, and printers in the office and familiarize themselves with the makes, models, and dates of this equipment. They should retain documents, such as applications for promotion, that may reveal what makes and models of typewriter are accessible to employees at their homes. Even between the same brand and year of typewriter, slight individual differences exist.

In the case of an anonymous note incident at one national company, the guilty party was long suspected, but the individual initially eluded identification because the letters were typewritten. A diligent investigator secured typewritten requests for job promotions and other reports, which were completed by the employee at his home. The FDE was able to use those documents to identify the typewriter and the typist who was responsible for the anonymous letters.

Security managers may want to institute a policy of random typewriter ribbon testing, which can reveal the illegal dissemination of business secrets. It is also a good idea to institute security measures for the pick-up of checks. The security department or appropriate company official can assign someone to distribute the checks and have each employee sign a log. This method provides a paper trail and witness should a check go astray. Comparison of latent fingerprints and the use of signature analysis can be used successfully to identify the thief and forger in the case of an inappropriately distributed check.

Security managers who institute procedures for document retention may be surprised at the difference these records can make when incidents arise. Take the case of one airline charged with wrongful discharge. The individual, a skycap, had been charged by a customer with maliciously misrouting her luggage after she refused to tip him. The airline fired the employee, and he filed a suit, which went to labor arbitration.

The airline called in an FDE to identify the writer of the original baggage tag. Although the hearing occurred three years after the incident, the tag had been retained in the suspect's personnel file, along with other records written by that individual. The forensic document specialist was able to identify the suspect as the person who wrote the tag sending the luggage off course. The finding saved the company not only from the need to pay back salary and legal fees but also from damaging publicity and the need to rehire an undesirable employee.

Many types of cases can hinge on document examination. When the stock market fell in 1987, signatures on forms authorizing stock brokers to trade on behalf of customers were later denied in an attempt to avoid severe financial loss. Other cases have involved employees who forged notes from their doctors or sent surrogates to take tests.

Considering the importance of documents in today's society - to indicate residency, education, birth, marriage, automobile ownership, and insurance - it is easy to see how vital the paper trail can be to an investigation. Security managers who learn to read beyond the literal meaning of the record to the secrets hidden in the ink and paper itself will be one step closer to closing the book on a case.

(*) Richard L. Burnelle and Robert W. Reed. Forensic Examination of Inks and Paper. (Springfield, Illinois: Thomas Publishing Co., 1984).5

James L. Hayes is president of James L. Hayes & Associates, forensic document examination consultants, in Chicago, Illinois. Linda Lettieri is a criminal justice major at Loyola University of Chicago and is training to be an FDE.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:handwriting analysis, security
Author:Hayes, James L.; Lettieri, Linda
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:2147
Previous Article:Security's crowning glory.
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