MS Word date fraud mayhem
December 13, 2006 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way on Microsoft Word to alter the file properties so that the document appears to have been created on a different time/date? [This question asked on behalf of another member.]

I have a student who claims that she turned in a paper on time, but I
never got a copy on the original turn-in day. I told her I didn't have
it, she said that I did. When I asked her to e-mail me a copy (over a
month later, after the papers were handed back to the class), she
didn't e-mail me the file for 5 days (odd, right?). The File
Properties of the Word doc made it appear as if the document had been
created and modified entirely after I asked her to e-mail me a copy
(in fact created 10 minutes after I sent the e-mail asking her to
e-mail me a copy.) We told her that we had evidence to believe that
the paper had not been composed before the original due date. (Her
behavior added to the suspicion.)

She has miraculously "found" the old paper version which looks exactly
like the one that she had e-mailed to me, except now the new one has
the "right" date/time (before the paper due date.) What seems odd is
that this "original" paper says revision number 13. The one that she
e-mailed that say that it was created in November said revision number

Is the difference in revision number enough to claim that she may have
just altered the time/date of the document? Is there a way on
Microsoft Word to alter the file properties so that the document
appears to have been created on a different time/date - I know that
you can do this by changing your BIOS time, but are there other ways
accessible to a college student?
posted by Arcaz Ino to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Did you google this--there are definitely ways to change that piece of info. Someone who knows microsoft word well would have been able to change all the info, incl the number of revisions, by just opening the file in an editor and futzing with the metadata.

Then again, maybe she was just taking the time to make a few extra revisions. tho it seems like 10-13 revisions is a lot for a last minute paper.
posted by shownomercy at 3:12 PM on December 13, 2006

Changing file date/time is trivial. There are quite a few utilities to do it.

And yes, revision 13 vs revision 10 should key you in real quick as well.

Tell her next time to use PDF, so she is less likely to get caught.
posted by SirStan at 3:13 PM on December 13, 2006

Also compare the 'edit time' (file->properties->statistics). If revision 10 has '200 minutes', and revision 13 has '220 minutes', it should only further your evidence.
posted by SirStan at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2006

When I was in college something similar happened. I forgot to attach the document to the e-mail, and after the weekend the prof. contacted me and asked me to re-send. I opened the doc to make sure it was the right one and must have modified something very minor. Saved and sent with the later date in the details. The prof didn't accept the paper.

I guess my point is, I would have appreciated the benefit of the doubt.
posted by nameless.k at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2006

Don't even have to use a program to do it, just change the clock in Windows and then save the document. The revision numbers certainly sound suspicious, but there are excuses that can be made, like if she saved the file under a different file name or something and decided to push CTRL + S a few more times it would jack up the revision numbers.

In the future, it may be tough on other students, but it prevents things like this from happening if you show little mercy for things like this. If papers are submitted to an office, have each of them stamped, or if they're submitted in class, initial them as they come in to confirm receipt. If a prof asked me to email a paper and it took me 5 days, I would have received a mark of 0 on it.
posted by perpetualstroll at 3:22 PM on December 13, 2006

nameless.k: Sure, a benefit of the doubt could be nice here, except it was 5 days late (if I had a paper, and the teacher asked me for a copy, I would send it out that minute). There is also the matter of the file revision # going up on the older version.
posted by SirStan at 3:24 PM on December 13, 2006

She's bullshitting you. Bust her.
posted by flabdablet at 3:29 PM on December 13, 2006

Then institute a system for accepting submissions that involves giving receipts for papers submitted, and make sure everybody knows that if there's a dispute, and no signed receipt can be produced, they're SOL. Life's too short to deal with drama queens.
posted by flabdablet at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2006

You're looking at File>Properties>Statistics tab, right? Be careful: that number will change if the file is save-as'd a different name. I think she's guilty, but I'd be careful using solely that number as a basis for a charge of cheating.
posted by muddgirl at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2006

(by guilty I of course mean suspicious)
posted by muddgirl at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2006

I've seen all sides of this: I've known students who have e-mailed purposely corrupted files to gain a few extra hours. I've known people claim to hand in paper copies when they hadn't so they could e-mail one a few days later. But then I've also accidentally sent my own professors the wrong final paper (one for another class), and I once handed in a paper copy only to have the professor lose it. Thankfully, in both cases my profs were understanding and accepted my (very prompt) responses to their questions.

I know this isn't an answer to your direct question (others have said that, yes, it's certainly possible that she's yanking your chain), but I think, really, what this should boil down to is if she has given you any other indication over the course of the term that she is untrustworthy. Has she had any other issues handing things in? If she has, I can understand your suspicion. But if not, if it were me, I would cut her some slack. Accidents happen, and you can't ever really be sure.

Lastly, I agree with all of the other suggestions that you should have a clear-cut way of accepting papers that gives everyone a guarantee that it has been received. Personally, I think it's a bit hateful when a professor doesn't provide some mechanism to guarantee against accidents and then acts like a hard ass when they occur.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2006

Seems like we've gone over this exact thing before, but I couldn't find it. You can pretty much tell if they're cheating or not based on the previous quality of their work, whether or not they've done this in other classes too, and their general behavior when you confront them on the details. Ask the student to explain the revision number situation and anything else you feel suspicious. Talk to other faculty to see if they've pulled this before.

I have known students to try to blame things on email, saying there must have been a mail server problem or something. Of course, it's a problem that only affected their message, out of the tens of thousands of successfully sent messages.

The burden of proof is really on the student, not you.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2006

You might also consider whether or not this evidence would stand up to a formal grade appeal, because that's probably what this will come to if you refuse to accept the paper.
posted by loiseau at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2006

I think this is the previous thread Mr. Gunn is thinking of.
posted by llamateur at 8:17 PM on December 13, 2006

I know that you can do this by changing your BIOS time, but are there other ways accessible to a college student?

You know that if you're in Windows. all you have to do is double click the date/time in the bottom right corner of the screen and you can change the BIOS date/time, right? It is trivially easy to create a document that looks like it was created before a certain date. Here is how I would do it:

1) Change the date/time on my computer.
2) Open the old document, which was created on the wrong date.
3) Cut/paste from the old document into a new document.
4) Save the new document.

So, it is insanely easy to do. However, it wouldn't result in a later revision number (well, I suppose it could if I saved it 13 times). So I'm guessing that it was edited using one of the other methods mentioned.

Having said all that, you have a pretty clear cut case for not accepting the paper. Student says she submitted the paper. You claim not to have received it. When you asked to be emailed a copy of it, she took *5 days* to submit it to you. That's enough time to re-write the whole paper, I presume? And the creation date of the document seems to imply that she did exactly that. If she had emailed it within a few hours of you asking for it, then I would be more lenient, but this girl made it very easy on you. She didn't hand it in, and when you asked her for another copy of it, she waited too long. Tough luck, next time she'll be sure to get it in on time.
posted by antifuse at 2:45 AM on December 14, 2006

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