ⓘ Forgery


ⓘ Forgery

Forgery is a white-collar crime that generally refers to the false making or material alteration of a legal instrument with the specific intent to defraud anyone. Tampering with a certain legal instrument may be forbidden by law in some jurisdictions but such an offense is not related to forgery unless the tampered legal instrument was actually used in the course of the crime to defraud another person or entity. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations.

Forging money or currency is more often called counterfeiting. But consumer goods may also be counterfeits if they are not manufactured or produced by the designated manufacturer or producer given on the label or flagged by the trademark symbol. When the object forged is a record or document it is often called a false document.

This usage of "forgery" does not derive from metalwork done at a blacksmiths forge, but it has a parallel history. A sense of "to counterfeit" is already in the Anglo-French verb forger, meaning "falsify".

A forgery is essentially concerned with a produced or altered object. Where the prime concern of a forgery is less focused on the object itself – what it is worth or what it "proves" – than on a tacit statement of criticism that is revealed by the reactions the object provokes in others, then the larger process is a hoax. In a hoax, a rumor or a genuine object planted in a concocted situation, may substitute for a forged physical object.

The similar crime of fraud is the crime of deceiving another, including through the use of objects obtained through forgery. Forgery is one of the techniques of fraud, including identity theft. Forgery is one of the threats addressed by security engineering.

In the 16th century, imitators of Albrecht Durers style of printmaking improved the market for their own prints by signing them "AD", making them forgeries. In the 20th century the art market made forgeries highly profitable. There are widespread forgeries of especially valued artists, such as drawings originally by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse.

A special case of double forgery is the forging of Vermeers paintings by Han van Meegeren, and in its turn the forging of Van Meegerens work by his son Jacques van Meegeren.


1.1. Criminal law Scotland

Forgery is not an official offence under the law of Scotland, except in cases where statute provides otherwise.

The Forgery of Foreign Bills Act 1803 was repealed in 2013.


1.2. Criminal law Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, forgery is an offence under section 251 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act, 2001 which provides:

A person is guilty of forgery if he or she makes a false instrument with the intention that it shall be used to induce another person to accept it as genuine and, by reason of so accepting it, to do some act, or to make some omission, to the prejudice of that person or any other person.

A person guilty of forgery is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to a fine, or to both.

Any offence at common law of forgery is abolished. The abolition of a common law offence of forgery does not affect proceedings for any such offence committed before its abolition.

Except as regards offences committed before the commencement of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act, 2001 and except where the context otherwise requires, without prejudice to section 654a of that Act, references to forgery must be construed in accordance with the provisions of that Act.


1.3. Criminal law Canada

Forgery is an offence under sections 366, 367 and 368 of the Canadian Criminal Code. The offence is a hybrid offence, subject to a maximum prison sentence of:

  • if tried summarily: 6 months
  • if tried on indictment: 10 years

1.4. Criminal law United States

Forgery is a crime in all jurisdictions within the United States, both state and federal. Most states, including California, describe forgery as occurring when a person alters a written document "with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so." The written document usually has to be an instrument of legal significance. Punishments for forgery vary widely. In California, forgery for an amount under $950 can result in misdemeanor charges and no jail time, while a forgery involving a loss of over $500.000 can result in three years in prison for the forgery plus a five-year "conduct enhancement" for the amount of the loss, yielding eight years in prison. In Connecticut, forgery in the Third Degree, which is a class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a $1000 fine, and probation; forgery in the First Degree, which is a class C felony, is punishable by a maximum 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10.000 fine, or both.


2. Documentary art

Before the invention of photography, people commonly hired painters and engravers to "re-create" an event or a scene. Artists had to imagine what to illustrate based on the information available to them about the subject. Some artists added elements to make the scene more exotic, while others removed elements out of modesty. In the 18th century, for example, Europeans were curious about what North America looked like and were ready to pay to see illustrations depicting this faraway place. Some of these artists produced prints depicting North America, despite many having never left Europe.


3. In popular culture

  • The 1972 novel by Irving Wallace, The Word concerns archaeological forgery, the finding and translation of a supposed lost gospel by James the Just, close relative of Jesus Christ, as part of a large project to be published as a new Bible that would inspire a Christian revival, but which is possibly a forged document.
  • The graphic art novel The Last Coiner, authored by Peter M. Kershaw, is based on the exploits of the 18th century counterfeiters, the Cragg Vale Coiners, who were sentenced to execution by hanging at Tyburn.
  • The 1966 heist comedy film How to Steal a Million centers around Nicole Bonnet Audrey Hepburn attempting to steal a fake Cellini made by her grandfather.
  • The 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, directed by Steven Spielberg, is based on the real story of Frank Abagnale, a con man who stole over $2.5 million through forgery, imposture and other frauds, which are dramatized in the film. His career in crime lasted six years from 1963 to 1969.
  • The 1839 novel by Honore de Balzac, Pierre Grassou, concerns an artist who lives off forgeries.
  • The Orson Welles documentary F for Fake concerns both art and literary forgery. For the movie, Welles intercut footage of Elmyr de Hory, an art forger, and Clifford Irving, who wrote an "authorized" autobiography of Howard Hughes that had been revealed to be a hoax. While forgery is the ostensible subject of the film, it also concerns art, film making, storytelling and the creative process.

  • A cliche forgery is a type of counterfeit coin a subtype of fourree produced using a genuine coin to impress a design into silver foil. The resulting
  • The Stock Exchange forgery was a fraud perpetrated at the London Stock Exchange during the years 1872 to 1873. It involved forged postage stamps that
  • Identity document forgery is the process by which identity documents issued by governing bodies are copied and or modified by persons not authorized to
  • The Forgery Abolition of Punishment of Death Act 1832 2 3 Will.4 c. 123 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Signature forgery Forgery of Foreign Bills Act 1803 Forgery Act 1830 Forgery Abolition of Punishment of Death Act 1832 Forgery Act 1837 Forgery Act 1861
  • The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries were a cause celebre in 1790s London, when author and engraver Samuel Ireland announced the discovery of a treasure - trove
  • The Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 c 45 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which makes it illegal to make fake versions of many
  • Forgery Act with its variations is a stock short title used for legislation in the United Kingdom which relates to forgery and similar offences. The
  • The Forgery Act 1861 24 25 Vict c 98 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as it then was It consolidated
  • The Niger uranium forgeries were forged documents initially released in 2001 by SISMI Italian military intelligence which seem to depict an attempt

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