What is signature forgery?
Forging a signature is a situation in which a person acts consciously and intentionally in order to deceive a third party with a document that is not authentic. The fraud is manifested in the fact that a third party receives a document that is supposed to be signed by someone who did not actually sign it, and who is most likely unaware of the existence of the document.
As a result of forging a signature, the person who commits the fraud can receive assets or services free of charge, and the one who will actually be required to pay is the same person whose signature was forged. The goal of forgery will always be to get something that does not actually belong to the signature forger.
There is no doubt that the act of forging a signature on a document or forging a signature on a check or contract may cause many damages to the person whose signature was forged . The question arises, what can the person whose signature is forged do, and can he file a lawsuit for forging a signature, and who even has to prove that it is a forged signature? The answers are later in this article.
Attorney Eddie Blitshtein has been representing plaintiffs and defendants in the matter of forgery of signatures for over a decade. If you need professional legal assistance, you are welcome to contact our office.
How is forgery defined by the law?
Before starting to talk about forging a signature on a document or forging a signature on any contract, you should first understand how the law defines forgery. Forgery is defined in Article 414 of the Penal Code:
"Fake" – one of these:
(1) Making a document that purports to be what it is not, and it may mislead;
(2) Changing a document – including adding a detail or omitting a detail – with the intention of deceiving, or without legal authority and in a manner that is assumed as if the change was made with legal authority;
(3) signing a document in the name of a certain person without legal authority, or in a fictitious name, in a manner that may make it appear as if the document was signed by a certain person;
In these cases, you can file a claim for signature forgery, but you should always remember that it is not enough to show that the signature is forged, but you also need to show, in most cases, that you suffered damage due to the act of forgery.
1: Contact the police and file a complaint about forging a signature
Forging a signature is not only relevant to filing a civil claim or a financial claim , but it is an issue that requires a referral to the police because it is a violation of several sections of the Penal Code :
Forgery – 418. Whoever falsifies a document, his sentence – one year imprisonment;Forging a document with the intention of obtaining something through it, his sentence – three years imprisonment;And if the offense was committed under aggravating circumstances, the penalty is five years in prison.
419. Whoever falsifies a document that contains information about a person or a corporation with the intention of deceiving, his penalty is three years' imprisonment;There is no issue, for this matter, if the person or the corporation existed or not and if the corporation was about to be founded but was not founded.
420. The person who submits or issues a forged document or uses it in another way, knowing that it is forged, is legally prosecuted as the forger of the document.
Even if the Israel Police will not investigate your complaint (as is very often the case), at the very least you will have permission to file a complaint for forgery with the police, which may help you prove your claims regarding the forgery committed, as part of legal proceedings that will be conducted in court.
2: Check the damage caused to you as a result of the forgery
Before you want to file a lawsuit in court, it is important to understand what exactly you want to sue for. If, for example, your signature is forged on some agreement, it is important to understand the damage caused to you as a result of that forgery. For example, as a result of that forged signature, were you forced to pay money or were you perhaps denied any rights as a result of the forgery of your signature?
Forging a signature is designed to achieve some goal and you need to understand what that goal is. Once you understand the purpose of the person who forged your signature, you can decide on the most correct course of action against that person.
3: Before filing a forgery claim it is important to collect appropriate evidence
The burden of proof to prove that it is a forged signature varies from case to case and according to the claims of the parties. There will be cases where the plaintiff will have to prove that it is a forged signature, and there will be cases where the defendant will have to prove that the signature is forged.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit for forging a signature, you should consider contacting a graphologist (a professional handwriting expert who can examine the manner of your signature and determine whether it is a forgery or not) even before filing a lawsuit in court .
If a graphologist does determine that your signature is forged, you should consider attaching an expert opinion on his behalf to the statement of claim. As soon as an expert opinion is submitted with the statement of claim and determines that the signature is forged, the chances of success of the claim increase significantly. Furthermore, with the defendant not submitting an expert opinion on his behalf regarding the forgery of the signature, this will further increase your chances of success.
Another thing you should do before filing a signature forgery claim is to try to dub the person claiming your signature is authentic. This can be done through a recorded conversation or SMS/WhatsApp/email correspondence (the main thing is to have written evidence).
As part of the dubbing process, try to understand from him why he claims that the signature is authentic, when according to him you signed the document, where the document was signed, whether the document was signed in front of other people, etc. For example, if the person who claims that your signature is not forged claims to you that you signed on a final date in front of certain people, you can present data that at that time you were not in Israel at all or did not meet with those people at all.
The dubbing operation may seem impossible in some cases, but you will be surprised in how many cases you will be able to obtain data following that dubbing operation that will prove that a signature was indeed forged.
4. Submitting a claim for forging a signature to the court
After you have acted as detailed above, you are ready to submit a claim for signature forgery to the court. In these lawsuits, it is advisable to use the services of an experienced civil lawyer who has handled lawsuits of this type in the past and is familiar with the issue of the burden of proof when a claim of forgery is made.
In this matter there are many (and sometimes contradictory) rulings by the various courts, therefore relevant legal knowledge on the issue of signature forgery will definitely increase your chances of success.
Who has to prove that a signature was forged on a contract or check as part of a claim?
When a lawsuit is filed for forging a signature, there is often a dispute between the parties as to who has to prove whether it is an authentic or forged signature. These situations should be divided into two situations: 1. A situation where the parties to the legal process are also parties to the contract; 2. A situation where the parties in the legal process are not direct parties to the contract.
The Supreme Court (CA 45/15 Halima Nabulsi v. Nabil Nabulsi, judgment of May 15, 2017) addressed this issue and stated as follows:
"This is the case with regard to the burden of proof in general, and so in particular and even more so with regard to the claim that the waiver agreement is forged, an issue on which the lawsuit arose and falls. In this regard, it is established in the ruling that the burden of proving that a contract is not authentic, while the two parties to the trial are not direct parties to the contract, is on the person claiming forgery (see CA 7456/11 Bar Noy v. Amnon, [published in Nebo] in paragraphs 16-15 (11.4.2013) (hereinafter: Bar Noy case); CA 3546/10 Mishali v. Klein, [published in Nebo] in paragraph 14 (18.4.2012) (hereinafter: Mishali matter)).
This is in contrast to the situation where a person denies his own signature on a document – then it is up to the opposing party to prove its authenticity (see AA 8752/07 Bank Leumi Israel Ltd. v. Horowitz, [published in Nebo] in paragraph 6 (March 15, 2011) (below : Horowitz matter); CA 2032/06 Hagi v. Zian, [published in Nebo] in paragraph 41 (1.2.2009); CA 5293/90 Bank Hapoalim Ltd. v. Shaul Rahami Ltd., P.D. Maz(3) 240, 261 (1993) (hereinafter: mercy case))."
This means in a situation where it is a forgery when the person whose signature is forged claims that it is not his signature – the person who claims that it is an authentic signature has to prove it.
On the other hand, when the parties to the legal process are not the direct parties to the contract, the person who claims that it is a forged signature must prove his claim.