Learn English – What do you call it when a scam artist modifies the contents of a document to deceive other people


Some unscrupulous scam artist decided to modify a contract that had my signature on it, to make it appear that I had agreed to things I did not. Here is a simplified example:

Bob agrees to pay Fred $20,000 for Fred’s service of building Bob a home.

The bellow signature indicates acceptances into this contract.

Bob’s Signature: Bob
Fred’s Signature: Fred

Now say Bob gets crafty and uses an image editing software, such as Photoshop, to replace "$20,000" with "$10,000".

What would this be called? What word would describe this "falsified" document? I'm not so much looking for a legally correct term, as what's legal is for the judge to decide. I'm looking for an easily understandable term. It looks like I'm going to have to explain this to a few people and I want a way to distinguish between two documents where one had been subtly altered.

Since both signatures are valid, I don’t think it’s correct to say it’s forged. I also considered fake, but not sure this is accurate as (in a sense) it is intended to be different from the original. Other words that come to mind are counterfeit and phony.

Best Answer

To distinguish between the legitimate document and the one that was altered to be deceptive, you could refer to the falsified document as doctored.

Merriam-Webster provides the definition under doctor as a transitive verb:

2.b. to alter deceptively

The OED provides a more detailed definition:

3. fig. To treat so as to alter the appearance, flavour, or character of; to disguise, falsify, tamper with, adulterate, sophisticate, ‘cook’.

A recent example from Wired magazine uses the word to describe a video edited to be deceptive.

In July 2015, Planned Parenthood’s website was hacked shortly after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released secretly recorded (and discredited) videos doctored to make it seem like Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue.