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What Is a False Document?

A magazine published supposed entries from Adolph Hitler's diaries that proved to be false documents.
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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
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  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2014
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A false document is a type of deed, certificate, or literary work that has been forged for the purposes of fraud. False documents come in many varieties in an array of different fields, from illegal immigration paperwork to literary forgery, from accounts of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings to reports of conspiracy theories. The intent of a false document is to trick another party into believing the information provided on the document is true.

The 16th century novel Amadis de Gaula was one of the first recorded instances of a false document. The author, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, later asserted that he "amended" several aspects of the story and was not the true author of the first three volumes of the fictional book; he did claim to have written the fourth volume in its entirety. This event laid the groundwork for the future falsification of documents in the fields of both literature and law.

In the case of illegal immigration, a false document is sometimes used to procure a green card. The green cards issued by the United States government, for example, are exceptionally difficult to replicate, but the paperwork needed to attain a green card—birth certificates, baptism records, or driver's licenses—can be forged quite easily. This type of deception is conducted to curtail immigration laws and allow immigrants to stay, live, and work in a country they may otherwise have to leave.

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A fake report of a UFO or a conspiracy theory is another variety of false documentation. These hoaxes have traditionally required the "proof" of paperwork to substantiate the false claims. An example of this type of documentation was in George Adamski's book Flying Saucers Have Landed, which claimed Adamski was taken into space by aliens. It was later discovered that Adamski based the book on an earlier work of fiction that he wrote and was attempting to pass off as true.

The field of literature has some of the most prevalent cases of false documents. Many writers have plagiarized work from other writers or made up events entirely and then tried to present them as having occurred. In one famous example, a magazine published excerpts it asserted were entries from Adolf Hitler's diaries; the documents were later proven to be falsifications. Accusations of false documentation also came into play when author James Frey was found to have invented large portions of his bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces.

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