19

Some unscrupulous scam artist decided to modify a contract that had my signature on it, to make it appear that I had agreed to things I did not. Here is a simplified example:

Bob agrees to pay Fred $20,000 for Fred’s service of building Bob a home.

The bellow signature indicates acceptances into this contract.

Bob’s Signature: Bob
Fred’s Signature: Fred

Now say Bob gets crafty and uses an image editing software, such as Photoshop, to replace "$20,000" with "$10,000".

What would this be called? What word would describe this "falsified" document? I'm not so much looking for a legally correct term, as what's legal is for the judge to decide. I'm looking for an easily understandable term. It looks like I'm going to have to explain this to a few people and I want a way to distinguish between two documents where one had been subtly altered.

Since both signatures are valid, I don’t think it’s correct to say it’s forged. I also considered fake, but not sure this is accurate as (in a sense) it is intended to be different from the original. Other words that come to mind are counterfeit and phony.

  • 31
    The document is forged; the signature is not forged. – Drew Oct 13 '17 at 1:01
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    Please provide a sentence where your word would fit. So far it's not clear whether you want a word for the act which was done on the document or a word naming the resulting document, or whether you want a noun or an adjective. – Andrew Leach Oct 13 '17 at 6:57
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    The word 'forgery' is in no way limited to signatures. You can forge art, documents, contracts, etc. The word you are looking for is forgey. – Shane Oct 13 '17 at 21:17
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    @Shane “Where are we?” “We're in a blacksmith's workshop.” “Oh, I should've know: this place had a certain ‘forgey’ look about it.” – can-ned_food Oct 14 '17 at 14:34
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    It is definitely correct to say the document is forged. Forgery includes ANY alteration of a document for fraudulent purposes, not just signatures. – barbecue Oct 15 '17 at 22:30
74

To distinguish between the legitimate document and the one that was altered to be deceptive, you could refer to the falsified document as doctored.

Merriam-Webster provides the definition under doctor as a transitive verb:

2.b. to alter deceptively

The OED provides a more detailed definition:

3. fig. To treat so as to alter the appearance, flavour, or character of; to disguise, falsify, tamper with, adulterate, sophisticate, ‘cook’.

A recent example from Wired magazine uses the word to describe a video edited to be deceptive.

In July 2015, Planned Parenthood’s website was hacked shortly after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released secretly recorded (and discredited) videos doctored to make it seem like Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue.

  • This is very descriptive though it does not indicate that the changes were made to commit fraud. Most fashion and many wedding photos are doctored in a marketing effort or in the name of vanity. – KalleMP Oct 17 '17 at 12:21
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    @KalleMP That's a fair point. But when someone refers to a "doctored document" it's generally understood that it was edited maliciously. It fits with the definition, "to alter deceptively." Even with photos, if someone says "edited" there is no negative connotation, but with "doctored" there is a sense that the resulting photos are misleading. Having said that, all the answers here would work, the OP could really choose any of these words to get their point across. – RaceYouAnytime Oct 17 '17 at 12:32
31

Traditionally, the word for both the faked document and the act of faking the document would be forgery. From Merriam-Webster:

  1. : something forged
  2. : an act of forging; especially : the crime of falsely and fraudulently making or altering a document (such as a check)

Your document has been fraudulently altered, so in your example

This contract is a forgery. Bob engaged in forgery when he secretly altered the terms written on the contract after he and Fred had both signed it.

In the particular case that you've described, assuming you are correct that "an image editing software" was used to alter the contract, this is also a particularly egregious case of photoshopping (even if Adobe's product isn't used to create the fraudulent document). Also from M-W:

photoshop
verb, often capitalized
transitive verb
: to alter (a digital image) with Photoshop software or other image-editing software especially in a way that distorts reality (as for deliberately deceptive purposes)

So Fred could say something like

This isn't what I actually agreed to; the original contract that I signed has been photoshopped.

You could also combine the two terms, for greatest clarity:

I signed a similar document, but this one is a photoshopped forgery.


ETA: I am not a lawyer; this answer is just about the common usage of the terms, not their legal application or implications ;-).

  • 1
    This was certainly what came to my mind. I'm know the OP objected to this term specifically because both signatures were authentic, but "forgery" to me does not imply anything about the specific nature of the faking (i.e. whether the signatures or something else was altered) – Darren Ringer Oct 13 '17 at 18:01
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    This is definitely the correct term from a legal perspective as well. Legal definitions of forgery make it clear that forgery includes both creating false documents and altering real documents. Whether you create a document from scratch, add to or delete from an existing one, or alter the wording of a document, if the purpose is to deceive for gain, it's the crime of forgery. – barbecue Oct 15 '17 at 22:27
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The document has been falsified

to change something, such as a document, in order to deceive people

Falsify

Falsifying documents is a type of white collar crime ....... etc

Falsifying Documents

7

"Altered," may be enough:

"The presentation of a forged or altered instrument is evidence, in and of itself, of an intent to defraud a bank." U.S. v. Laljie, 184 F.3d 180 (4th Cir. 1999).

7

Perhaps fraudulently altered would convey the meaning you are trying to put across.

It would cover both the motive to deceive and the act of modifying the document.

Many forged things are fair copies of the original where this is specifically not a direct copy.

The Legal Information Institute writes an alteration fraudulently made discharges a party whose obligation is affected by the alteration, and in A Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia and Acts Passed by the General Assembly of Georgia we read If any person ... shall falsely and fraudulently alter ... note, ... such person ... shall ... be punished

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    That's a good suggestion - would you mind providing definitions and a sample sentence, as we normally do for single-word-request questions? Thanks. – Toby Speight Oct 13 '17 at 8:13
5

You may choose to use the word Tampered to define such documents.

In fact there is a popular digital signature service feature, called Tamper Evidence

If someone tries to change any part of the document (even something as simple as deleting a space or capitalizing a word), there’s proof that changes took place.

  • I like the word but tampering does not imply fraud or malice. – KalleMP Oct 17 '17 at 12:02
  • Yes it does. Unauthorized alterations of any kind can be defined as tampering. – DSarkar Oct 18 '17 at 12:37
  • Tampering may be the result of curiosity when opening a radionic unit, self reliance when changing a iPhone battery or tidiness when despeckling up a scanned document. None of these may have been authorised but all were tampering though no fraud was intended (though DMCA and other right not to fix legislation can say otherwise) unless attempts to hide the act were also made. – KalleMP Oct 18 '17 at 20:49
  • The OP stated that the contents of the documents were modified to deceive people. Since the intent was to deceive people, that means fraud was committed.For example, this is how the Kentucky Govt. describes tampering of documents - Knowing he lacks the authority to do so, he intentionally destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the availability of any public records lrc.ky.gov/Statutes/statute.aspx?id=19864 – DSarkar Oct 19 '17 at 7:01

protected by tchrist Nov 12 '17 at 2:58

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