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Forgery Definition

Forgery is the act of criminally altering or creating a written instrument for the purpose of deceit or fraud. A typical example of forgery is signing another person’s name to a check. Another way that forgery occurs is when a piece of artwork is copied, represented to the buyer as authentic, and sold at the same value as the original.

What Elements Are Required to Prove Forgery?

Making Altering Use or Possessing

One of the most frequently missed requirements to prove forgery is an individual must alter, use, make or possess a false writing or piece of artwork. They have to calculate and intend to make substantial modifications to an instrument. The level of malice has to be substantial in order to satisfy this requirement to prove a forgery charge.


To prove forgery, there must be some form of either an imitation of an object of value or a false document signature. At times, those who are charged with forgery can also be accused of fraud since it is common to have forged signatures on contracts, legal certificates or identification cards. It is also possible for both consumer goods and currency to be forged; however, some states reduce this charge to just counterfeiting.

Intent to Deceive

Many states require that there is an intent to commit fraud to successfully prove a claim of forgery. In order to prove forgery, it is essential to prove that the party intended to deceive another. When considering the art world, famous paintings are reproduced all the time. These copies are not forgeries. A forgery only occurs when the works of art are copied, and someone attempts to represent and/or sell the prints as originals.

Is Forgery Identity Theft?

Depending on the state, forgery charges can be applied to those that have committed identity theft or cybercrime offenses. Identify theft is a crime where an individual wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s private data in a way that usually involves deceiving practices for economic gain. Some of the most common items targeted for identity theft in the United States are social security numbers, PINs or credit history. Usually, the criminals behind identity theft will obtain access to this information through illegal hacking or merely a stolen wallet.

Can an Item Be Forged if it Is Not Published?

A common question that arises in forgery cases is whether the item has to be published in order to prove forgery? Forgery can be established without the forgery being published. Historically, common law did require a forgery to be made public. However, today, a deed, for example, that was forged and not published is still a forgery.

Famous Forgery Cases in Films & Books

Forgery is a popular creative topic to be used in books and films. One popular example is based on a true story of Frank Abagnale who forged millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent checks. Ron Howard decided to make the film “Catch Me If You Can” to showcase Frank Abagnale’s story and show how he ended up becoming one of the F.B.I.’s top experts in catching future check thieves.

Before computers, it was much easier to commit forgery and never see a courtroom. This was the case for Konrad Kujau who wrote the forged diaries of Adolf Hitler. In terms of artwork, there was also a famous forger from Germany named Wolfgang Beltracchi who painted several counterfeit Picasso paintings along with paintings from many other European artists.

Forgery is a serious offense and depending on the item that is forged; it can cause the buyer to lose a substantial amount of money. Forgery is a felony charge in all 50 states, and each state has its own individual statutes that deal with forgery charges and their corresponding punishments.

Forgery Glossary Definition

Forgery is when an individual creates or alters a piece of writing or artwork with the intention to deceive others. Forgery can occur with artwork along with the signing of fraudulent checks. To successfully prove forgery, it has to be shown that an individual had possession of the item and intended to make substantial modifications to deceive another.