Forged, fake or counterfeit – do you know the difference?

Forged, fake or counterfeit – do you know the difference?

Identification, defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as: “1 – the act of recognising and naming someone or something; 2 – an official document that shows or proves who you are.”

Interestingly, the two concepts of identification and documentation go closely hand-in-hand, even in the dictionary. However, it’s not that easy for organisations to know and verify the identity of their customers.

Document fraud comes in three guises:

1. Forgery: a genuine document that has been unlawfully altered

Forgeries can be difficult to spot with the human eye, and often require digital tampering detection software to detect. But, there are several tells:

  • The check sum digits don’t add up, or don’t match the expected outcome as calculated by document specific algorithms
  • The white light, UV and infra-red light layers on the document don’t match
  • The document chip doesn’t match the information on the document photograph paper

2. Counterfeit: a copy of a genuine document

Counterfeits can sometimes be detected physically; something about them might not “feel” quite right. But, this can be harder to detect on a digital journey.

  • Wrong paper, polymer or other material, incorrect colouring
  • Missing or misaligned security features, visible in white, UV and/or IR light

3. Fake: an identity document that isn’t officially produced or recognised

Fake documents can often be the hardest to detect. During a document journey, a team member may feel intimidated or under pressure to accept official looking documents that they don’t recognise, for fear of being labelled as prejudice.

With so much to look out for, how can you be sure an ID document is the real deal?


Determining whether a piece of identity evidence is genuine; i.e. is the data on the document real data. For example, a counterfeit document which failed the check sum calculation would not be validated.


Determining whether the customer is the owner of the identity presented; i.e. does all the data on the document match together and can it be linked to the individual presenting the document.

Someone taking a genuine identification document and passing it off as their own, would not be matched or verified against the identity data. That’s where a liveness check can help during an online customer journey.


Is the individual who they claim to be and can they prove it? An individual with a fraudulent identification document, whether forged, counterfeit or fake, would be unable to authenticate against that document.

At GBG IDscan, we help navigate the relationship between identity and documentation.

Our technology is available in two flavours; a digital journey, which provides adequate assurance in a moderate risk environment, and a document fraud prevention journey, which provides document authentication through hardware scanners. We take the guess work out of your customer identity checks, so you can have confidence in who you do business with.

Get in touch today to find out how we can tailor a solution that fits your business needs.