The Difference Between Fakes, Forgeries and Counterfeits

The Difference Between Fakes, Forgeries and Counterfeits

Whether a document is a fake, forgery or counterfeit, none of them should be used to verify a customer’s identity.

Here, we will explore the difference between the terms and what they mean in practice when referring to falsified identity documents.


Below is a list of all the topics we will cover in this article. Go ahead and click on any of these links, and you’ll be taken to that specific section.

There are thousands of identification documents in circulation worldwide. Identity documents can take many forms – from ID cards, to driver’s licenses, to passports and digital IDs – and it is crucial that each one is unique and has specific features that allow it to be verified.

The unique features of many identity documents make it very hard for criminals to create false copies in order to steal someone’s identity or carry out unlawful activity. The rarer an identity document is, the better it is at protecting its holder.

Each country tends to have a list of ‘state-approved’ identity documents that are rare, unique and protected enough to be trusted by financial institutions and when carrying out sensitive activity. All countries have passports but each is unique and special in some way. They come in different colours and textures, containing differing content, and are considered to have varying levels of power depending on how many countries they allow the carrier to enter.

The challenge when handling many forms of identification is to ensure you only allow the genuine articles to be used for identity verification.


According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a fake is something that is ‘not real, but made to look or seem real’. By this definition, all forgeries and counterfeits are fakes.

“All counterfeits are fakes, but not all fakes are counterfeits. ‘Counterfeit’ implies deception, but ‘fake’ just means it’s not the real thing.”

Depending on their sophistication, fake documents can be difficult to detect when used to verify identity. However, the difference lies in the fact that not all fake documents are used to deceive; Monopoly money for example is fake, but not intended to be used as legal currency.


Forgery is the crime of producing illegal copies of documents with the intent to defraud. A person is guilty of forgery if they alter any writing or makes any writing of another person and proclaims it to be the act of the other person who did not actually authorise the act.

Fake, forgery and counterfeit all mean an item is not genuine, but forgery and counterfeit implies intentional illegality.


A counterfeit is something which is ‘made to look like the original of something, usually for dishonest or illegal purposes’.

Although the term counterfeit is generally associated with making, dealing, or possessing any counterfeit currency, it also includes forgeries of documents and imitations of goods and trademarks. In the case of goods, counterfeiting results in patent infringement or trademark infringement. Making, dealing, or possessing any plate, stone, analog, or any other thing, or part used for counterfeiting also amounts to the crime.

How We Can Help

Depending on their sophistication, false documents can be difficult to detect when used to verify identity and manual identity verification checks are not just time consuming, but also produce a lengthy and clunky onboarding process for customers. 

The challenge is to verify the authenticity and information on identity documents without adding unnecessary time to the onboarding process. This is where our automated solutions come to the fore.

Our leading solution for global document verification, iDocufy utilises a global database of over 5,000 forms of government-issued identity documents to accurately assess document authenticity and capture both visual and electronic document data.

iDocufy works as a global KYC and AML check and enhances customer confidence due to its speed and seamless integration. When used together with BioMatch as part of our global ID, KYC & AML platform, Sodium, our solutions offer world-class authentication in one simple integration. One simple integration; a flexible 360° solution which is scalable and secure.

Utilising all forms of data, this integrated approach helps increase pass rates in countries all over the world, which in turn increases revenue and customer acquisition with real-time onboarding, creating a better customer experience. 

Utilise a single element or multiple processes – it’s entirely up to you. Learn more about how we can help to automate and simplify your verification processes to help you to learn more about your customers.

Book a demo today and see for yourself how powerful our suite of solutions are.


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