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Bad font choice exposes forged documents in bankruptcy case

Bad font choice exposes forged documents in bankruptcy case
© Kai Zhao | Dreamstime

Here's a rule of thumb for crooks: If you plan to engage in any kind of fraudulent activity like forgery, it's all about the details. Miss one, and the whole scheme can fall apart.

So if you're going to try to falsify a document, for instance, it's not just about making sure you dot the i's and cross the t's. Sure, you might have double-checked that, along with choosing the right logos, lingo or the proper formatting, too, but it's still not enough.

And just when you think you've covered all the bases, someone comes in and figures out it's a fake. It all unraveled because you chose the wrong font.

'Font detective' foils alleged forgery scheme

This cautionary tale takes us to Canada. It's the story of a man named Gerald McGoey, who had been CEO of a company called Look Communications. Long story short, the company collapsed a little over a year ago, McGoey was left bankrupt and was ordered to pay $5.6 million to creditors. Ouch.

But he wanted to keep the court from taking a couple of homes during his bankruptcy case, so he said the properties were held in trust by his wife and kids. To prove it, he submitted two signed documents to the court; one dated 1995 and the other from 2004. But there was a problem.

A self-described "font detective" named Thomas Phinney took a closer look at the documents. The font used in the document dated 1995 was Cambria. Calibri was the font used in the 2004 document. Good choices, because they're nice, professional-looking fonts. But while Calibri was created in the 2002-2004 range, Cambria wasn't even designed until 2004. And regardless, both weren't even widely available until 2007, when they were bundled with Windows Vista and Office 2007. So it wouldn't have been possible that these fonts would have been used during the provided dates. Busted.

It's not the first time Microsoft fonts uncovered fraud

Calibri has been used to fight crime before. In 2012, documents dated 2003 were used by the Turkish government to prove that hundreds of people were involved in a coup attempt. But those documents were written in Calibri, and even though it was pointed out, it didn't change the outcome.

And in 2017, forged documents were provided to justify the wealth of the former Pakistani prime minister. The documents in that case were dated 2006, and also used the Calibri font -- which, again, wouldn't have been possible.

I guess they should have just stuck with a nice, classic font. Times New Roman, maybe.

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Source: Ars Technica
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