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A professional forgery band consists of first, a capitalist or backer;

second, the actual forger, known among his associates as the

"scratcher"; third, the man who acts as confidential agent for the

forger, known as the "middle man"; fourth, the man who presents the

forged paper at the bank for payment, known as the "layer down" or


When it is necessary to have a capitalist or back
r connected with a

band he furnishes the funds for the organization, frequently lays out

the plans for work and obtains the genuine paper from which forgeries

are made. He will, when necessary, find the engraver, the lithographer

and most important of all, the "professional forger," who will do the

actual forgery work.

The professional forger has, as a rule, considerable knowledge of

chemicals, which enables him to alter checks, drafts, bills of

exchange, letters of credit, or to change the names on registered

bonds. He is something of an artist, too, for with a fine camel's hair

brush he can restore the most delicate tints in bank safety paper,

which tints have been destroyed by the use of acids. In fact no bank

safety paper is a protection against him.

When the amount of the genuine draft or check is perforated in the

paper, certain forgers have reached such perfection in their work as

to enable them to cut out the perforation, put in a patch about the

same as a shoemaker does with a shoe and then skilfully color the

patch to agree with the original, so that it becomes a very difficult

matter to detect the alterations even with the use of a microscope.

This done and the writing cleaned off the face of the draft, check,

letter of credit, or bill of exchange, with only the genuine signature

left and the tints on the paper restored, the forger is prepared to

fill up the paper for any amount decided upon.

The backer or capitalist is rarely known to any member of the band

outside the "go-between," whom he makes use of to find the forger. He

very rarely allows himself to become known to the men who "present"

the forged paper at the banks. If the forgery scheme is successful,

the backer receives back the money paid out for the preparation of the

work as well as any amount he may have lent the "band" to enable them

to open accounts at banks where they propose placing the forged paper.

He is also allowed a certain percentage on all successful forgeries,

this percentage running from 20 to 30 per cent; but where the backer

and forger are working together, their joint percentage is never less

than 50 per cent.

It is an invariable rule followed by the backer and forger that in

selecting a middle man they select one who not only has the reputation

of being a "stanch" man, but he must also be a man who has at least

one record of conviction standing against him. This is for the

additional protection of the backer and forger, as they know that in

law the testimony of an accomplice who is also a former convict must

be strongly corroborated to be believed.

Out of their first successful forgeries a certain sum from each man's

share is held by the middle man to be used in the defense of any

member of the band who may be arrested on the trip. This money is

called "fall money" and is used to employ counsel for the men under

arrest or to do anything for them that may be for their interest.

When a "middle man" is exceedingly cautious and not entirely satisfied

with the "presenters" he will sometimes have an assistant. This is

where the "shadow" comes in. This shadow will under the direction of

the "middle man" follow the "presenter" into the bank and report fully

on his actions. He sometimes catches the "presenter" in an attempt to

swindle his companions by claiming that he did not get the money, but

had to get out of the bank in a hurry and leave the check or draft, as

the paying teller was suspicious.

A "presenter" caught at this trick is sometimes sent into a bank to

present a forged check where the bank has been previously warned of

his coming by an anonymous letter. This is done as a punishment for

his dishonesty and as a warning to others against treachery.

That the professional forger eventually profits but little by his

ill-gotten gains is well illustrated by the fate of the most of them,

who end their days in prison.

In the case of a forgery there are a dozen methods for detecting

it--in the quality of the ink, in the quality of paper, in microscopic

examination of the irregularities in penmanship, in "labored" tracings

that show exaggerated tracings, in composite photography, and by a

dozen little common-sense observations that scarcely can be


Some forgeries have been detected by the mere water-mark in the paper.

Sittl of Munich is quoted as having had referred to him a possible

forgery of a document dated 1868. Holding the paper to the light, he

found as a water-mark in it the figure of the eagle of the German

Empire--a symbol which had not been adopted at all until after the

French war of 1870.

The magnifying glass is depended upon for many disclosures of

forgeries. The unduly serrated edges of the ink lines are quickly

marked in a forgery, though under certain circumstances a situation

may be such as to force a person into this laborious writing; he may

be cramped up in bed, writing on a book held in his lap, or he may be

in a mental strain that produces it.

There are minds so easily impressed with a sense of responsibility

that the writing or signing of any paper important in its bearing on

the writer or his property will cause him to disguise his hand to some

extent involuntarily, as many persons disguise their features

involuntarily when being photographed.

As to signatures especially, attention is called to the "tremor of

fraud," which is to be detected by the microscope, and stress is laid

upon the necessity of observing just where this tremor falls. If it is

in a difficult flourish of the signature and not elsewhere it indicates

fraud; or if it be tremulous to the eye, in imitation of the signature

of an aged person, a smooth, curved line may be the index of "the

difficulty experienced by a good penman in feigning to be a bad one."

The microscope is useful and valuable in determining whether erasures

have been made on paper. Also it will discover which of two crossed

lines was last written. It may determine whether the ragged edges of

the ink lines are those of fraud, illiteracy, or old age.

The practice of forging the names of depositors in banks to checks,

drafts, notes, and in fact to all papers representing a money value,

has been practiced, probably, since the creation of man. Of course the

law recognizes forgery as a serious crime, and everywhere the

punishment is severe. In the seventeenth century it was a capital

offense in England, and there were more persons executed for that

crime than there were for murder. Notwithstanding the rigorous penalty

prescribed in every state in the Union, forgery is carried on to an

alarming extent, sometimes by trusted employees, as well as


The raising of checks and drafts is the principal method employed by

the men who make a business of defrauding the unwary. The simplest way

of explaining the operation of raising a draft or check is as follows:

Two men are necessary for success at any given point, and hence they

are not so liable to detection as if a number of confederates were

engaged. It is the business of one of these men to enter a bank, and

purchase a draft on New York City, for a certain amount of money,

usually about fifteen hundred dollars, and a short time after this

another draft would be procured from the same bank for a small amount,

seldom over ten dollars. These drafts procured, they are handed to the

"raiser," or the man who is to alter the paper for their dishonest

purposes. In a short time the small draft is raised to be a perfect

duplicate of the large one, in every sense of the word, both as

regards number, amount, place of presentation, etc.

This work of alteration being fully completed, one of the men would

then remove to another city, and forward the "raised" draft to New

York, by express, for collection, or else would go to that city

himself, and have it cashed through some respectable person.

Immediately on receiving the money he would telegraph his companion,

in words previously agreed upon, informing him of the successful

result of the first move. The other confederate, upon the receipt of

this information, would at once go to the bank where the drafts had

been procured, and presenting the genuine draft for the large amount

of money, would request that the money be refunded, giving as an

excuse for not using it, either that he could not be identified in the

New York bank, and for that reason could not collect it, or that the

business he had procured it for had not been consummated. The bank

officials would recognize him as the person who purchased the draft,

and would unhesitatingly hand him back the money which he had paid. Of

course he would quickly disappear from the locality, never to be seen

in it again--and the forgery would not be discovered until, in the

due course of ordinary business, when the other draft for the same

amount would be returned for payment.

A favorite trick of forgers, and check and draft raisers, who operate

on an extensive scale, is for one of them to open an office in a city,

and represent himself as a cattle dealer, lumber merchant, or one

looking about for favorable real-estate investments. His first move is

to open a bank account, and then works to get on friendly terms with

the cashier. He always keeps a good balance--sometimes way up in the

thousands--and deports himself in such a manner as to lead to the

belief that he is a highly honorable gentleman, and the bank officials

are led to the belief that he will eventually become a very profitable


Occasionally he has a note, for a small amount to begin with, always

first-class, two-name paper, and he never objects--usually insists--in

paying a trifle more than the regular discount. At first the bank

officials closely examine the paper offered, and of course find that

the endorsers are men of high standing, and then their confidence in

the "cattle king" is unbounded. Gradually the notes increase in amount,

from a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars, and from fifteen hundred to

two or three thousand. The notes are promptly paid at maturity. After

the confidence of the bank people has been completely gained, the

swindler makes a strike for his greatest effort. He comes in the bank

in a hurry, presents a sixty-day note, endorsed by first-class men, for

a larger amount than he has ever before requested, and it generally

happens that he gets the money without the slightest difficulty. Then

he has a sudden call to attend to important business elsewhere. When

the note or notes mature, it is discovered to be a clever forgery. This

has been done time and again, and it is rare that the forger has been


The forgery of checks is a common offense. It takes more than one man

to successfully perform this operation. The forger himself is known as

the "scratcher," or the expert penman of the party. The "middle man"

is the fellow who conducts the business negotiations, ostensibly as a

merchant, and the "layer-down" is the man who presents the check to

the bank and secures the cash. The middle man must have a pleasing

address, and be thoroughly posted on the commercial news of the day,

and it is requisite that the layer-down be well dressed, quick witted,

and possessed of an unlimited amount of polite assurance, a cheek that

never pales and an eye that never droops. In selecting a person to

fill this important position, the forger prefers to have a man who

has, at some time or other, been convicted of crime, so that in case

of discovery, and the turning of state's evidence by the layer-down

(who is always the man caught) his evidence will not have weight with

a jury. The latest mode is for the forger to imitate a private check

by the photo-lithographic method, after having obtained a signed


The signature, after being photographed, is carefully traced over with

ink, and the body of the check is filled up for whatever amount is

desired. The maker of the check is requested to identify the person

who holds it, and as a general thing he does not wait to see the money

paid. The moment his back is turned, the layer-down palms the small

check and presents the large one. This way of obtaining money is

without the assistance of a middle man. Private marks on a check are

no safeguards at all, although a great many merchants believe they can

prevent forgery by making certain dots, or seeming slips of the pen,

which are known only to the paying teller and themselves. This

precaution becomes useless when the forger uses the camera. Safe

breakers are often called upon by forgers and asked to secure a sheet

of checks out of a checkbook. When this is accomplished a few canceled

checks are taken at the same time. These are given to the forger and

he fills them up for large amounts, after tracing or copying the

signature. The safe burglars receive a percentage on the amount

realized. If your safe vault or desk is broken open, where your

check-book is kept, carefully count the leaves in your check-book,

also your canceled checks. If any are missing, notify the banks, and

begin using a different style of check immediately. The sneak thief,

while plying his trade, often secures unsigned bonds of some

corporation which has put the signed bonds in circulation, leaving the

rest unsigned until the next meeting of the directors.

Frequently unsigned bonds are left in the bank vault for safe keeping.

These are stolen and sent to the penman or "scratcher." Then a genuine

signed bond is purchased, from which the signatures are copied and

then forged. The same trick has been played on unsigned bank notes,

but on the bank notes almost any name will do, as no person looks at

the signature, as long as the note appears genuine.

The ingenuity of a countless army of sharpers is constantly at work in

this country, devising plans to obtain funds dishonestly, without

work, but, in fact, they often expend more time, skill, and labor in

carrying out their nefarious schemes than would serve to earn the sum

they finally secure, by honest labor. Every banker must, therefore, be

on his guard, and should acquaint himself with the most approved means

of detecting and avoiding the most common swindlers. This is just as

necessary as it is to lock his books and cash in his safe before going


Next to the counterfeiter, the forger is the most dangerous criminal

in business life. Transactions involving the largest sums of money are

completed on the faith in the genuineness of a signature. Hence every

effort should be made to acquire the art of detecting an imitation at

a glance. This can be done only by considerable practice. It is

asserted that every signature has character about it which cannot be

perfectly copied, and which can always be detected by an experienced

eye. This is problematical, but certainly a skilful bank teller can

hardly be deceived by the forgery of a name of a well-known depositor.

A banker should accustom himself to scrutinize closely the signatures

of those with whom he deals. He should cut off their names from the

backs of checks and notes, and paste them in alphabetical order in an

autograph book devoted to that purpose, and compare any suspicious

signature with the genuine one.

In consequence of the numerous frauds committed by forged checks, some

of the European bankers have adopted the custom of sending with their

letter of advice a photograph of the person in whose favor the credit

has been issued, and to stop the payment when the person who presents

himself at the bank does not resemble the picture. If this practice

were to become universal, the object of preventing frauds could be

well attained.

Instead of the signature being forged, the amount of a check, etc.,

may be altered. This is done either by changing the letters and

figures, or by the use of an erasive fluid. The perfection with which

the latter alteration can be performed is so complete that the most

skilful eye cannot detect the imposture. A person may deposit a

hundred dollars with a house in New York, and obtain their draft for

that amount on Philadelphia; he then alters the one hundred to one

thousand by erasing a portion of the letters and figures and cashes

the draft at a broker's. The latter recognizes the signature, and has

no suspicion of the fraud until too late.

The means to secure entire protection against this is by using an ink

which cannot be erased by chemicals, or at least such chemicals as are

familiarly known to the class of criminals who make this a specialty.

Every well-regulated bank now uses a machine for punching or

perforating a series of small holes in the check, so that any increase

or decrease of the number of letters written is immediately detected.

Many banks have been swindled in the following manner: A check, say

for ten dollars, is obtained from a depositor of a bank, and a blank

check exactly like the filled-in check is secured. The two checks are

laid one upon the other, so that the edges are exactly even. Both

checks are then torn irregularly across, and in such a way that the

signature on the filled check appears on one piece and the amount and

name of the payee on the other. The checks having been held together

while being torn, of course one piece of blank check will exactly fit

the other piece of the filled check. The swindler then fills in one

piece of the blank check with the name of the payee and an amount to

suit himself, takes it with the piece of the genuine check containing

the signature to the bank, and explains that the check was accidently

torn. The teller can put the pieces together, and as they will fit

exactly, the chances are that he will think that the pieces are parts

of the same check, and becomes a victim of the swindle. The trick, of

course, suggests its own remedy.

It is a well-known fact that there are banks in the country that have

paid thousands of dollars on raised checks, and decided that it was

cheaper for them to pocket the loss than to have the facts become


The New York Court of Appeals holds that the maker of a check is

obliged to use all due diligence in protecting it, and the omission to

use the most effectual protection against alterations is regarded as

an evidence of neglect.

Here are a few points about raising checks and drafts that should be

carefully noted: To successfully raise a check or draft requires so

much less skill or art than to accomplish a forgery that it has of

late become alarmingly prevalent. Often where a check or draft is

printed on ordinary paper the original figures are removed by some

chemical process so skilfully that no alteration can be detected, even

with a strong magnifying glass.

It is not uncommon, when filling up checks or drafts, to take another

pen, and with red ink write the amount across the face of the paper,

and again make the figures in and through the signature. All these

precautions may make tampering with the amount more difficult for a

clumsy novice, but it only imposes a few moments' more work upon the

accomplished manipulator. He takes his strong solution of chloride of

lime and rain water, or other prepared chemicals, and with a pen

suited to the purpose, by neutralizing and abstracting the coloring

properties of the ink, he carefully obliterates such portions of the

lines in the figures and written amounts as suits his purpose, then

easily makes the alteration he desires, the red ink coming out as

readily as black. And if the tint or coloring of the paper should have

been affected by his cautious touch, he takes the proper shade of

crayon or water-color, and carefully replaces the original shade.

Now, the signature not being touched, but remaining genuine, and the

payer not being supposed to know who wrote the check, but only who

signed it, he pays the amount specified, and the law holds the "maker

of the check responsible when there is nothing in its appearance to

excite suspicion, and the signature is proven genuine."