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On the right, the real sheet of a theatre surimono by Kunisada, on the left with a faked signature of Hokkei, c. 1825 Kunisda-and-faked-Hokkei.jpg
On the right, the real sheet of a theatre surimono by Kunisada, on the left with a faked signature of Hokkei, c. 1825

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 (other than themself). [1] [2] 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 blacksmith's 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 Dürer's 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 Vermeer's paintings by Han van Meegeren, and in its turn the forging of Van Meegeren's work by his son Jacques van Meegeren. [3]

Criminal law

A forged police identification card used by a convicted terrorist. Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik's fake police ID as evidence item on display at 22. juli-senteret (22 July Information Center) in Regjeringskvartalet, Oslo, Norway. Photo 2018-09-14.jpg
A forged police identification card used by a convicted terrorist.

England and Wales and Northern Ireland

In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, forgery is an offence under section 1 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which provides:

A person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice. [4]

"Instrument" is defined by section 8, "makes" and "false" by section 9, and "induce" and "prejudice" by section 10.

Forgery is triable either way. A person guilty of forgery is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both. [5]

For offences akin to forgery, see English criminal law#Forgery, personation, and cheating.

The common law offence of forgery is abolished for all purposes not relating to offences committed before the commencement of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. [6]


Forgery is not an official offence under the law of Scotland, except in cases where statute provides otherwise. [7] [8]

The Forgery of Foreign Bills Act 1803 was repealed in 2013.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, forgery is an offence under section 25(1) 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. [9]

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. [10]

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. [11]

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 65(4)(a) of that Act, references to forgery must be construed in accordance with the provisions of that Act. [12]


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:

United States

Forgery is a crime in all jurisdictions within the United States, both state and federal. [1] [2] 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." [13] 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 [14] 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. [15] In Connecticut, forgery in the Third Degree, which is a class B misdemeanor [16] 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, [17] is punishable by a maximum 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 fine, or both. [18]

Civil law

As to the effect, in the United Kingdom, of a forged signature on a bill of exchange, see section 24 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882.

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Theft Act of taking anothers property without permission or consent

Theft is the taking of another person's property or services without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. The word theft is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting, library theft or fraud. In some jurisdictions, theft is considered to be synonymous with larceny; in others, theft has replaced larceny. Someone who carries out an act of or makes a career out of theft is known as a thief.

Fraud Intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual

In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law, a criminal law, or it may cause no loss of money, property or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements.

Identity theft Deliberate use of someone elses identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage

Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else's identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person's name, and perhaps to the other person's disadvantage or loss. The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences, especially if they are held responsible for the perpetrator's actions. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another's personally identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The term identity theft was coined in 1964. Since that time, the definition of identity theft has been statutorily proscribed throughout both the U.K. and the United States as the theft of personally identifiable information, generally including a person's name, date of birth, social security number, driver's license number, bank account or credit card numbers, PIN numbers, electronic signatures, fingerprints, passwords, or any other information that can be used to access a person's financial resources.

In criminal law, property is obtained by false pretenses when the acquisition results from intentional misrepresenting of a past or existing fact.

Bank fraud is the use of potentially illegal means to obtain money, assets, or other property owned or held by a financial institution, or to obtain money from depositors by fraudulently posing as a bank or other financial institution. In many instances, bank fraud is a criminal offence. While the specific elements of particular banking fraud laws vary depending on jurisdictions, the term bank fraud applies to actions that employ a scheme or artifice, as opposed to bank robbery or theft. For this reason, bank fraud is sometimes considered a white-collar crime.

Art forgery Creation and trade of falsely credited art

Art forgery is the creating and selling of works of art which are falsely credited to other, usually more famous artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler.

Counterfeit money money that was created illegally

Counterfeit money is imitation currency produced without the legal sanction of the state or government, usually in a deliberate attempt to imitate that currency and so as to deceive its recipient. Producing or using counterfeit money is a form of fraud or forgery. The business of counterfeiting money is almost as old as money itself: plated copies have been found of Lydian coins which are thought to be among the first Western coins. Before the introduction of paper money, the most prevalent method of counterfeiting involved mixing base metals with pure gold or silver. Another form of counterfeiting is the production of documents by legitimate printers in response to fraudulent instructions. During World War II, the Nazis forged British pounds and American dollars. Today some of the finest counterfeit banknotes are called Superdollars because of their high quality and likeness to the real US dollar. There has been significant counterfeiting of Euro banknotes and coins since the launch of the currency in 2002, but considerably less than for the US dollar.

Identity document forgery fake IDs and their production

Identity document forgery is the process by which identity documents issued by governing bodies are copied and/or modified by persons not authorized to create such documents or engage in such modifications, for the purpose of deceiving those who would view the documents about the identity or status of the bearer. The term also encompasses the activity of acquiring identity documents from governing bodies by falsifying the required supporting documentation in order to create the desired identity.

Uttering is a crime involving a person with the intent to defraud that knowingly sells, publishes or passes a forged or counterfeited document. More specifically, forgery creates a falsified document and uttering is the act of knowingly passing on or using the forged document.

Conspiracy to defraud is an offence under the common law of England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Fake may refer to:

Forgery Act 1861 United Kingdom legislation

The Forgery Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to forgery from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act. For the most part these provisions were, according to the draftsman of the Act, incorporated with little or no variation in their phraseology. It is one of a group of Acts sometimes referred to as the Criminal Law Consolidation Acts 1861. It was passed with the object of simplifying the law. It is essentially a revised version of an earlier consolidation Act, the Forgery Act 1830, incorporating subsequent statutes.

At law, cheating is a specific criminal offence relating to property.

Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 United Kingdom legislation

The Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which makes it illegal to make fake versions of many things, including legal documents, contracts, audio and visual recordings, and money of the United Kingdom and certain protected coins. It replaces the Forgery Act 1913, the Coinage Offences Act 1936 and parts of the Forgery Act 1861. It implements recommendations made by the Law Commission in their report on forgery and counterfeit currency.

Forgery Act 1913 United Kingdom legislation

The Forgery Act 1913 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Forgery of Foreign Bills Act 1803 United Kingdom legislation

The Forgery of Foreign Bills Act 1803 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Prior to its repeal in 2013, it created offences of forgery of foreign instruments in Scotland.

The Criminal Justice Act, 2001 updates and consolidates the law relating to dishonesty and fraud in the Republic of Ireland.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to forgery:

The National Stolen Property Act is an Act of Congress which prohibits certain offenses relating to stolen property and forgery. The definitions related to the Act are codified at 18 U.S.C. § 2311 and the offense are codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314–2315.

The Penal Code is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Malaysia. Its official long title is "An Act relating to criminal offences" [Throughout Malaysia—31 March 1976, Act A327; P.U. (B) 139/1976]. The sole jurisdiction of Parliament of Malaysia is established over criminal law in Malaysia.


  1. 1 2 United States v. Hunt, 456 F.3d 1255, 1260 (10th Cir. 2006) ("Historically, forgery was defined as the false making, with the intent to defraud, of a document which is not what it purports to be, as distinct from a document which is genuine but nevertheless contains a term or representation known to be false.") (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added); see generally, 10 U.S.C.   § 923 ("Forgery"); 18 U.S.C.   §§ 470 514 (counterfeiting and forgery-related federal offenses); 18 U.S.C.   § 1543 ("Forgery or false use of passport").
  2. 1 2 "§ 19.71 S. Forgery". The Law Offices of Norton Tooby. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  3. Davies, Serena (2006-08-04). "The forger who fooled the world". ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  4. Digitised copy of section 1.
  5. The Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, sections 6(1) to (3)(a)
  6. The Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 13
  7. W J Stewart and Robert Burgess. Collins Dictionary of Law. HarperCollins Publishers. 1996. ISBN   0 00 470009 0. Pages 176 and 398.
  8. Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia
  9. Irish Statute Book. Digitised copy of section 25.
  10. The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001, section 25(2)
  11. The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001, sections 3(2) and (3)
  12. The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001, section 65(4)(b)
  13. "California Legislative Information, Penal Code section 470" . Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  14. Brady, Katherine (November 2014). "California Prop 47 and SB 1310: Representing Immigrants" (PDF). Immigrant Legal Resource Center1. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  15. Couzens, J. Richard; Bigelow, Tricia A. (May 2017). "Felony Sentencing After Realignment" (PDF). California Courts. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
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  18. Norman-Eady, Sandra; Coppolo, George; Reinhart, Christopher (1 December 2006). "Crimes and Their Maximum Penalties". Office of Legislative Research. Connecticut General Assembly. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
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