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What is forgery?

Like many people in Philadelphia, the fake paintings often featured in suspense and action films are likely what come to mind when you think of forgery. There are, however, numerous situations when duplications or replications may be considered forgery. In order to protect yourself from being charged with this type of white collar crime, it may benefit you to understand what constitutes forgery in the state of Pennsylvania.

It may be considered forgery if you intentionally attempt to injure or defraud another through printing or writing. This may include faking credit cards, money, checks, electronic signatures, documents, trademarks or badges. Under Pennsylvania state law, there are three ways under which forgery becomes a criminal offense.

First, altering someone else’s writing without his or her permission may constitute forgery. For example, someone gives you a check for $1,000. Using a pen with the same color ink, you change the one into a four. Then, you deposit this check into your account for the bogus amount. You could face criminal forgery charges.

Creating a complete document from scratch may be considered forgery under Pennsylvania state law if you claim such documents are authentic. Completing documents that are already in progress may also constitute this type of offense. For example, you use a design program on your computer to make a counterfeit gift card. Then, you go to a store and attempt to use the card to purchase merchandise. By the same token, taking a blank check from your employer and forging the signature on it to write yourself a check may also be considered forgery.

Passing off documents as authentic when you know they are fake may also result in forgery charges. For example, a friend creates disability paperwork with your name on it as a joke. Knowing that the documents are bogus, you send them in to a government agency in order to try and obtain benefit payments.

This post has offered an overview of forgery in the state of Pennsylvania. It should, however, be considered only as general information, and should not be taken as legal advice. 

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Gregory R. Gifford
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