Sign and Steal

Sign and Steal
By: Jeff Cunningham
We see cases on CSI where hand-writing analysis helps catch the bad guy.
The Heartland is home to a man who is at the top of his field.  His name is Steve McKasson and he works about five to 10 cases of forgery every month.
In this age of identity theft, we put our expert to the test and asked him to help all of us avoid becoming a victim.
"You could say identity theft has been around forever.  Forgery is a form of identity theft and it's always been around  This just means that there's more ways to do it," McKasson said.
McKasson has been a signature and handwriting expert for four decades.  He's worked hundreds of cases and actually started a handwriting analysis program for the Illinois State Police.
We wanted Steve to show us how he determines a forgery.  So, I forged my wife's signature on a check and sent it to Steve along with a couple of examples of Andrea's real signature.  I learned both some good news and some bad news.  Steve said your own subconscience works against you in forgery.
"Habits build up that even she is not aware of.  She can do it unconsciously.  When you try to do it conciously.  You also have to supress your own unconcious habits," he said.
Here are three key differences.  First, when going from the 'a' to the 'n', I lifted the pen in concentration.  Andrea's transition is smooth.  Andrea makes a little loop in her 'r'.   Mine is clumsy with a pause and I learned my wife does her 'g' backwards.
So, all of this helps us understand how Steve spots a forgery.  Here's the bad news.  He says even my clumsy attempt at her name would probably fool a lot of people.
"We're looking at these side by side with all the time in the world," he said. "Most people would have two seconds and if it's pictorially the same you would probably accept it as genuine."
So, what do we do to protect ourselves.  Unfortuately, there isn't a lot we can do.  Steve suggests keeping your signature complicated and fast-written.  Try not to get lazy and make it just a squiggly line.
And steve says in this computer age, it was easy for him to make a copy of Andrea's signature and add it to an IOU for $27,000.  And don't think that getting something noterized is fool-proof.  Steve says it's easy to become a notery today and many of the forgery's he's worked on are noterized.