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Fake news, false identities, and phony emails – in today’s digital world, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to detect fact from fiction.

Fake Texts Are Easy To Create, Difficult To Detect

For lawyers and investigators, discerning what’s real when dealing with digital evidence is more difficult than ever. This is due, in part, to how easy it is to create fake evidence. Specifically, a rise in fake text message apps makes it almost effortless to falsify all types of instant mobile communications – iMessage, SMS, MMS, and chat. Nearly every aspect of the text message can be fabricated, including the sender and recipient, time stamp, and delivery status.

With the click of a button, the imposter can download an image that looks like a genuine text message, making it nearly impossible for an untrained eye to notice the difference between a real chat and a fake.      

Uncovering Fake Evidence In Litigation And Investigations

In litigation and investigations, fake texts can wreak havoc. This is not to say that you should assume screenshots of text messages are fake, but diligence is recommended. Consider these scenarios:

  • Hostile Work Environment – An employee claims that a co-worker made unwelcome comments, and he or she provides HR with screenshots of text messages allegedly proving the accusations. The HR team member notices that on the screenshot, the wireless carrier is not capitalized (“verizon” instead of “Verizon”).
  • Trade Secret Theft – Two members of the sales team give their resignations. One of their former colleagues discloses a series of text messages implicating that the former salespeople stole trade secrets and confidential information days before leaving the company. The manager of the sales team observes that the text message bubbles are gray and black (even though they were disclosed as color printouts), which seems out of place from traditional messaging color schemes.
  • Child Custody – One parent produces text messages proving the other parent’s lack of involvement in the child’s life, including failure to pick up the child at arranged times or provide financial support for the child. The family court officer receiving the screenshots detects that the date and time stamp on the text messages is in the future, instead of in the past.

In each of these situations, the veracity of the text messages is critical to the legitimacy of the claims. The HR professionals, attorneys, and court officials involved in these circumstances – and other matters with similar scenarios – should not accept the communications at face value. Rather, a properly trained forensics examiner should be consulted to confirm the authenticity of the text messages.

Seek Help From A Digital Forensics Expert

Modern professionals should be aware of the ease of falsification of text message evidence. If there are any red flags, dig deeper to verify the authenticity of the screenshots or images provided.

Work to determine whether the text messages were truly typed, sent, or received by the parties and that they contain the full conversation. This can be as easy as reaching out to the other parties involved in the alleged communications and asking them to confirm sending or receiving suspect communications.

Also, consult a digital forensics expert to examine the device(s) that originated and received the messages. Using specialized tools, forensics experts can analyze the metadata associated with the messages in question to substantiate their validity. Forensics experts issue reports and create an affidavit, if needed, to reveal the authenticity (or lack thereof) of the text message(s).  

iDiscovery Solutions is a strategic consulting, technology, and expert services firm – providing customized eDiscovery solutions from digital forensics to expert testimony for law firms and corporations across the United States and Europe.

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