The alteration of the figures and amount written on a cheque is
generally effected by erasure. At one time chemicals were used for this
purpose, but fortunately the modern cheque is forgery-proof in this
respect. No means are known to chemists by which ordinary writing can be
removed from a cheque without leaving a sign too pronounced to escape
But even erasure on a cheque is extremely difficult, and the experienced
eye of the average bank teller can detect it in the vast majority of
cases. Frauds perpetrated by this means are very rare, and are usually
the result of gross carelessness on the part of the person accepting the
document so altered.
The more frequent form of cheque fraud is effected by adding to such
words as six, seven, eight and nine. The addition of _ty_ and _y_ is all
that is necessary. But the ordinarily careful business man never leaves
sufficient blank space between his words to admit of this addition,
while there are few bank tellers who do not carefully scrutinise a
cheque made out for these larger amounts.
It may be accepted as a satisfactory fact that cheque forgery is not
only extremely difficult, but rarely successful. Great frauds are
usually perpetrated by means of other instruments, such as bills of
exchange, credit notes, &c.
An erasure is the easiest thing to detect if looked for. To begin with
it is only necessary to hold a scratched document to the light to have
the alteration revealed.
Erasing must of necessity remove part of the surface of the paper which
is made noticeably thinner at the spot erased.
In nearly every case the writing that has been added to the erasure is
blurred, owing to the rough and absorbent character of the paper. Expert
forgers have devised means of counteracting this by rubbing in some
substance which partially restores the original smoothness and mitigates
the blurred appearance. But such devices ought not to be successful for
they are so easily detected.
As a matter of fact the only chance the forger of an erased cheque has
lies in the carelessness of the teller. Any crowding of words and
unequal spacing in the filling up of a cheque ought to excite suspicion
and provoke careful and closer scrutiny, and, it may be added, it
The addition of letters intended to increase the value of a number, such
as the adding of _ty_ to six or seven, is easy of detection if properly
It is safe to assume that the addition has been made long after the
original word was written, and the point of junction can be detected by
the aid of a good glass.
Had the word been originally written sixty, the chances are that there
would be no perceptible break between the _x_ and the _t_. Few persons
write such short words in a disconnected manner. On placing the word
under an ordinary glass the point of junction will be plainly apparent,
and a microscope, or an enlarged photograph, cannot fail to reveal the
fraud. Of course these latter tests will not be possible under the
ordinary circumstances attending the paying out of a cheque over the
counter, but when once the peculiarities of such alterations have been
studied, it is marvellous how quick the eye becomes in recognizing them
at a glance.
Erasure in writings on stout thick paper is not quite so readily noticed
as those on thin paper such as cheques; but the same methods of
examination will apply--holding the document to the light, or level with
and horizontal to the eye. A very effective application of the latter
test is to bend or curve the paper, making an arch. The bending has a
tendency to stretch and widen the erased part, and if any smoothing
substance such as starch or wax has been added to restore the gloss of
the scraped portion, it will usually reveal itself by separating and
coming away in dust or tiny flakes. This process may be accentuated by
drawing the suspected document over a ruler, or, better still, a pencil,
repeating the motion several times.
Next: Pencils And Stylographs