This page considers forgery prevention.
It covers -
A more detailed note on 'security paper' and other mechanisms
to protect the integrity of documents is here.
As preceding pages have suggested, there is no 'silver
bullet' solution to the diverse range of forgeries and
frauds, particularly a solution that stops all fraud.
Instead, it may be most accurate to talk of forgery 'inhibition'
rather than 'prevention'. Public/private sector enforcement
bodies should be viewed as engaging in a dynamic relationship,
with criminals for example
new technologies (eg 'cooking' ceramics with X-rays
to muddy thermoluminescence testing)
defeating new security measures by incorporating legitimate
authenticity labels or using illicitly obtained legitimate
security paper (eg blank passports)
on lags in checking data
the incompatibility of databases.
Some industries have been able to take a pro-active approach
to reduction of opportunities for forgery and facilitation
of its detection.
These include issuers of cheques, passports and other
official documentation - much of which features
(eg modern versions of traditional threads and watermarks),
with holograms and 'two dimensional barcodes' and/or
is resistant to alteration
'laser inks' that fluoresce under examination (eg for
quick identification of legitimate documents rather
than digital copies)
range of biometric and other tools, given recognition
that although one data set might be corrupted, matching
of data against a number of identifiers is likely to
2005 the federal government in Australia for example announced
that a new marriage certificate would feature "special
inks" and "a unique number on the reverse that
enables each certificate to be traced". The US adopted
optically variable ink (OVI) for its banknotes in 1996:
turn a bill one way and the ink appears bronze-green,
turned the other way the ink looks black.
Some arts/crafts organisations have sought to signal the
identity of high-value objects (or merely leveraging the
willingness of stakeholders to believe in high tech cargo-cults)
by using 'data dots' or DNA-based labelling, usually accompanied
by certification that the item is genuine. One example
is the DNA 'authenticity label' for Australian Indigenous
paintings and other art, discussed here.
Manufacturers have similarly deployed 'holographic' labels,
data dots and other signifiers of authenticity. That identification
may have an evidential value for enforcement by businesss
and governments during anti-piracy campaigns but is not
a sure-fire solution. A genuine label and certificate
of authenticity may be transferred from one item to another.
A label might be forged: few consumers have the forensic
skills required to determine that the hologram is fake.
A label might instead be genuine but unauthorised; one
problem in the computer software and recorded music industry
for example is the '25 hour production run' where agents
of the intellectual property owners run off a few thousand
copies of a disk for themselves in addition to legitimate
Those considerations mean that legal regimes traditionally
have not relied on technological fixes but have instead
sought to deter forgery and shift responsibility, with
consumers and intermediaries for example having a role
in policing. That approach is consistent with responses
to identity crime highlighted here.
Deterrence centres on -
for production of forgeries and for knowingly circulating
those forgeries, initially an offence against the state
but increasingly addressed as part of broader consumer
protection and trade practices (including trademark
and other intellectual property) arrangements
that forgeries/frauds will be detected and that offenders
will be identified
that offenders will be prosecuted and convicted.
the preceding pages indicated, the first forgery law (statute
and case law) concerned coinage
and property documents, particularly wills.
The severity of punishments (eg loss of a hand, branding
on the forehead or execution) reflected broader penal
regimes and considerations such as debasement of coinage
being both an insult to the emperor or divinity depicted
on the coin and the threat to public order implicit in
paying armies with currency that was not legitimate (or
that merely was not trusted).
Some mediaeval penalties emphasised didactic values: millers
and bakers who had used false weights for example or had
adulterated products might be hanged with the lying scales
around their neck or burned in their own ovens, counterfeiters
were occasionally crushed by sacks of 'true' coins in
a variation on traditional pein forte et dure
or had molten metal poured down their throats.
The proliferation of anti-forgery statutes in Early Modern
and Enlightenment Europe reflected shifts to a paper-based
economy (bills of exchange, property deeds, the rise of
insurance and sharemarkets) along with anxieties about
fraud and perceptions that it was effective to address
offences through specific legislation rather than broad
It also reflected the ineffectiveness of much enforcement,
with lawmakers in Britain, France, Spain and the more
advanced German states recurrently complaining that counterfeiters
appeared quicker than they could be hung and that education
had resulted in the emergence of a poor but impudent scrivener
class adept at altering or concocting documents. Official
expressions of anxiety are similar to the 'fear &
frenzy' apparent in 1990s responses to online stranger
danger, cyberterrorism, filesharing and credit card fraud.