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In the province of British Columbia, in Canada, we have many forms to get things ordered or to move along. One form I am responsible for signing and giving the yay-nay on has been copied with all the fields blanked out, except my signature.

The purpose of this form is to prove I was consulted before the decision to purchase. Having my signature on that blank form means they can say I approved it, even though I don't know anything about it. The people with the form are my superiors in one wing of the organization.

I am concerned that this will be used in an unethical manner. How should I address this with my company in a professional manner?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., gnat, keshlam, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Rory Alsop Jul 18 '16 at 11:47

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 16 '16 at 23:01
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    It's not your signature, it's a copy of your signature, making it a blatant forgery. – CodesInChaos Jul 17 '16 at 10:23
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    IANAL but as far as I know, a copy of the signature is worthless. I could just copy ANY signature from ANY form I see and use it for my own purposes otherwise. The original is needed for anything legal. (the specifics probably depends on the country and I am not a lawyer) – Francisco Presencia Jul 17 '16 at 13:41
  • For me it sounds like the employer comes to you in gloves with a gun, hands it over and tells "hey kid, please hold this weapon for me for a moment, thanks!" – CsBalazsHungary Jul 20 '16 at 11:40
112

We can't tell you whether it's legal or not. But to answer your other question...

Yes. Go to HR. Don't delay, do it tomorrow. Say you're just checking on if this is normal, standard policy and is it company policy.

I would also check with some Canadian privacy groups and I'm sure there's a provincial or federal labor department as well.

Yes! It defeats the whole purpose of requiring a signature if it's on blank forms and you'll be held responsible for what they do (possibly).

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    Talked to my boss at the hq, he said he's going to talk with the people in question – Canadian Luke Jul 14 '16 at 23:15
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    its not illegal, till they use it without permision – Keltari Jul 15 '16 at 5:56
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    @Keltari: Doesn't sound like the OP gave permission. Does sound like they're using it. – T.J. Crowder Jul 15 '16 at 13:23
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    @SnakeDoc While that may have once been true, color scanners are pretty common now. – David K Jul 15 '16 at 16:32
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    @SnakeDoc under examination, no. Obviously not. But casual scrutiny will pass. – Chris E Jul 15 '16 at 16:44
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This is awful. Not just for you, but also for the company.

Legally, it is not a valid signature. It's only a valid signature if you sign a filled out form. Changing the form after you signed, in order to make someone believe you signed the contents of the form as it is, will most likely result in fraud. The problem may be proving it. So if this signature is used internally (say for making purchases, or sign off for someone's holiday), that could mean trouble for you.

Now let's say your company sent out a bill to a customer, the customer thinks it's wrong, your company says "the bill is Ok, because Canadian Luke checked it all and signed it", and things go to court. You would be asked whether this is true. In court you say the truth, so you say "I never saw this document before, I didn't sign it, and I'm aware that my company has a blank form with my signature". Your company would be so deep in trouble, because the obvious next question is who in your company filled out the form and committed fraud.

I'd say the right thing is going to HR and / or your legal department, informing them, and insisting of a signed paper where they acknowledge the existance of this signed form. They should most likely proceed by telling everyone to destroy all copies of that paper.

To directly answer your question: Any use of that empty form with your signature by filling it out, unless it is filled out in a way that you would have signed anyway, would most likely be illegal.

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    The converse is also important: The existance and use of the pre-signed form means that even properly-signed forms become open to challenge. – T.J. Crowder Jul 15 '16 at 13:33
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    Not to mention you may be held accountable in part because you have to admit you knew all along that the blank-form-signature existed in-house. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 15 '16 at 17:42
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    Something I've developed a habit of, recently: Taking a picture of any document I sign with my phone. Not always legible, but would certainly show if something had been altered, later. – Wesley Long Jul 18 '16 at 17:12
  • @WesleyLong: Good idea. I just tried this; with a decent smartphone even smallprint is quite readable if you take photos one page a time. – gnasher729 Jul 18 '16 at 23:13
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Working for a government entity a form like this opens you up to huge problems long run. The people using this presigned form and those requiring that a form is signed/those judging you should anything go wrong as a result of the presigned form will have little to no overlap. You are responsible for what you approve.

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    It is problematic. However, every one of us has signed forms that are now in the possession of others. Each of these forms could be photoshopped in a similar way. The only difference between OP and the rest of us (including you) is that the OP knows it has happened to him/her. – emory Jul 16 '16 at 0:46
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The employee is in trouble, in big trouble. Having a blank form with the signature of a boss is obviously a capital case.

But you are also in trouble, because it couldn't have happened without your cooperation. If you are allowed to make financial decisions, or at least influence them, then doing such a thing is also a capital case in your situation.

Even if you would be a simple employee whose only financial decision is to say his (her) bank account number to the HR, it would be dangerous.

At the moment as you signed that paper, you committed some hard thing and now all you can do is to minimize the possible casualties.

Of course, if the signature on the paper wasn't made by your hand, then you are clear and the employee is in really big trouble, but for your question, it doesn't seem that it would be the case.

What you can do: do it in a setting as if a trivial administrative mistake had been happened, for example you had printed not a correct form but another. Ask for the paper from the employee and handle it as a simple bad printing (-> destroy in the office document shredder).

Because he is also in trouble, he has every reason to be 100% cooperative.

The best result: nobody will remember it after some weeks.

The worst case, if the problem escalates to your bosses, a direct action of your bosses is likely, which can be followed by silent firings. If no actual financial loss (= forged purchase) happened, a further escalation into the criminal law is very unlikely (nobody wants it).

The goal is the best result. Try to do everything in the "business as usual" frame.

If you have similar tasks with the same employee (for example, other purchases requiring consultation with you), then do some other, similar tasks concurrently with him, and also solve this minor "bad printing" between them.

If not you and the employee are the only ones in the company who know of this problem, it is much more likely that your bosses will also know it, even if they won't say it to you.

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    I'm the employee, and I never signed that particular form – Canadian Luke Jul 15 '16 at 4:58
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 15 '16 at 13:37
  • Good answer, but for the wrong question. Please read the question more carefully before answering. – wizzwizz4 Jul 17 '16 at 10:35

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