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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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I believe my signature has been copied from a document I signed

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I believe my signature has been copied from a document I signed onto two documents that I didn't sign in an attempt to get money out of me.
The brief history is that in October 2007 I signed up to join a holiday club whilst on holiday in Tenerife but within a few months of returing home realised it had all been misrepresented, never used the services and wrote off the money I paid down to experience. I heard nothing from them for over 5 years and destroyed the paperwork sometime last early last year, which I regret now.
I believe the original company I joined is now in liquidation and during the summer last year I was contacted by a different company saying they had taken over and were collecting debts on behalf of the original company. They allege I owe £95 per year in unpaid annual fees (£570) plus a further £285 if I want to cancel as an early cancellation fee.
I don't believe I signed a contract on this basis, as far as I am concerned non-payment of the annual fee forfeits the membership so I challenged them to provide a copy of the contract on the basis they have to prove I owe money rather than me disprove it. They don't know that I haven't got the original paperwork. It has taken 9 months and they have now scanned through a copy of the original membership form that contains my signature but doesn't bind me to anything and two additional forms allegedly signed by me. I am as certain as I can be, and have an opinion from a forensic document examiner, that my signature has been scanned on to the other two documents. It will cost about £500 to get a complete forensic examintaion and report. I'm not sure what to do next as the offices for the companies concerned are in Gibraltar and looks like the contract is subject to the laws of Gibraltar, I believe the people chasing me for money are based on Tenerife. Not sure what my rights are as I believe they have committed a criminal offence and feel they are doing this to other people. Should I pay for the report and go to the police in the UK? Can I sue these people for any costs I incur?
Would apprecaite some advice as to the next steps, please.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 3 years ago.

Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I clarify for the avoidance of doubt on what basis you believe the form you do accept you signed doesn't bind you to anything please? What exactly is this form that you did sign?

Joshua :

You mention that the signature appears to have been scanned onto the other documents. Normally this would be relatively obvious even to a non expert because your signature but for size would be identical in every respect. Is this the position?

Customer:

The form I signed is just a membership application form that does mention an annual fee but there are no terms and conditions.

Customer:

I believe it is obvious the signature is identical but note sure how far I would have to go prove this. The copied signature has a dotted line through a couple of the letters and you can see this on the copies.

Joshua :

Thanks. As you say the burden of proof is upon them to demonstrate that you have entered into a contract. This can be show by a signature on terms, or you entering into a course of action which shows that you accepted terms, such as paying membership fees and so on.

Joshua :

If you do not believe you have signed the documents in question, and there is no other evidence to make this point redundant, i.e. you have made payments under or received benefits under the agreement (which could be evidence of contract in its own right) then it is a question initially of disputing their claim setting out your belief and pointing to reasons why you believe the signatures are scanned copies, which will presumably be that the signatures or identical and pointing out similarities which would not be expected on individual signatures which will not be identical.

Customer:

I did sign an application form that states Indefinite Membership (annual fee £95) and that's all but no Ts and Cs and I have never paid it nor been asked to until now and never used the services.

Joshua :

From there if they believe they have a claim they would need to issue proceedings against you which you would defend. Many such foreign companies do not actually issue proceedings but some do. Many Spanish timeshare agreements are drawn defectively as they fail to follow Spanish rules that they are deeded and therefore fail a court claim on this basis. Notwithstanding this, you will have the opportunity to defend any claim. It may not be necessary to obtain an expert opinion if the similarities are clear to see and you already have a third party informal report from what you say. If the case will turn principally on this issue alone then an application can be made for permission to obtain an experts report.

Joshua :

If is required, permission of the court must be sought and if granted it is possible to claim back up to £750 of experts costs if you are successful providing the total claim against you is less than £10K.

Customer:

I really want to take action against these people as I believe they have committed a criminal offence by forging my signature and I sort of wanted to catch them by surprise to stop them covering their tracks but not sure how to do this and also not sure whether I can pursue this from the UK?

Customer:

From the above response think you are saying I should just challenge them without paying for an expert report. If they do take me to court (which I doubt) and I defend, if the court require an expert report then I should be able to recover the cost. I just want these people off my back for good.

Joshua :

From what you say they may not have forged your signature but rather copied and pasted it which is different but would still amount to fraud. You could make a complaint to the police though given the company is based abroad the police will be somewhat limited in what they can do to investigate although they do have powers under EU legislation and in terms of Gibraltar through reciprocal agreements.

Joshua :

The police have a tendancy to claim such matters are civil disputes rather than investigate but there is no consistency in how the police will react and it costs nothing more than time to make a report. A report can be made using the polices dedicated fraud service.

Joshua :

http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/

Customer:

Yes you are correcr in that my signature has been copied rather than actually forged.

Customer:

Do you think I should just go back to these people and advise I believe my signature has been copied and dispute their claim for money and then leave it at that for now? I also notice the government of Gibraltar has a fraud action line, should I start with the UK or Gibraltar if I decide to report to the police?

Joshua :

Certainly it would seem a appropriate to raise your concerns with the company. Take care not to accuse them of fraud just in case the signatures turn out to be genuine. Rather consider saying it appear to you that the signatures are identical and have been scanned etc and that you do not believe you signed the other forms. This protects you agains any claims of defamation as they cannot dispute that this is how it appears to you

Joshua :

You can make a report to the police in Gib. You may consider saying that you are considering doing so dependent on their reply as this may convince them to give up in its own right.

Joshua :

Is there anything above I can clarify for you?

Customer:

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX will go back to the company on the basis you say being careful of the wording. I will say in that email that I am also considering making a report to the Gibraltar police department and leave it at that for now.

Customer:

Do you think that's the best course of action for now?

Joshua :

On the basis that your primary goal is to get them to go away I think so - the threat of police involvement may make them think twice particularly if they know what they have done. If your primary aim is to try to prosecute them of course then you may want to report to the police anyway but if your goal is the former, then the threat of doing so may be more effective than doing it for now.

Joshua :

Is there anything else I can help you with?

Customer:

No I think we are done for now. Thanks for the advice.

Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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