Fake Petition Scam

A scammer shows her fake petition sheet.

Scammers with clipboards will pretend to be signature collectors for a petition. After you sign their sheets, they will probably harass you for a “donation” to their cause.

You may find these people at many of the larger metropolitan tourist destinations. They target tourist and travellers the most, singles or couples, more rarely groups.

1) How it works

A Friendly Face or a local, or a group of them, walks over, greets you and starts chatting. -“Where are you from? What are you doing here? Do you like here?”-. These are all ritual questions to make you let your guard down.

Sometimes they could be women, even pregnant or with children around. Other times, they may have or pretend a disability. The Deaf-Mute version of this scam in Europe has been causing a stir lately.

They will typically have a clipboard with them, with a signature collection sheet.
The quality of this scam varies a lot from case to case. We start from few sentences in basic English about a generic goal for collecting signatures on a crumpled sheet (e.g., for orphans or to help the deaf community, etc.) to well done works with a credible logo, pins and tank tops.

They will try in some way to entice you to sign the petition and then, since you signed, urge you to donate. At the bottom of the sheet you might find a small section noting the minimum amounts accepted.

At your obvious refusal, at first, they will use pity and guilt to get you shelled out.
Sentences like -“If I don’t come back with a signature and no money, I’ll have to pay for it”. 

But things can get worse.

A scammer and two accomplices walk away from a failed pickpocketing attempt.
The fake signature collector flees with her accomplices after a pickpocketing attempt (Credit - frame by InTouchMediaOnYT via YT).

2) What you risk

100% of the “donated” money will be shared among the scammers or will go to the organization behind them.

In case of your refusal to donate, when piety and guild tripping fail, scammers could turn to intimidation or harassment. Or even to violence in extreme and very rare cases. 

One or more accomplices may also attempt to pickpocket you (click here for the main article) while you are distracted.

There is also a café edition of this scam. Scammers use they clipboards to cover and then steal smartphones, cameras and wallets from cafés and bars tables.

3) How to avoid it

If anyone, holding a clipboard, or a piece of paper that looks like a petition, randomly tries to stop you do not let them engage you in conversation. Why would they need a foreigner’s signature?

If they stop you, refuse to sign anything and walk away, or make them leave if you are at a café or a similar establishment. Be assertive, even rude if necessary, and do not let them any room of action.

Beware of possible accomplices nearby and keep your belongings safe.

4) Extras and Thoughts

As far as I know, it’s very easy to come across this type of scams in big cities, especially in Europe. The ease of finding what is needed for the routine (literally a pen and a piece of paper with random things printed on it) makes any common street hustler capable of leveling up and trying this fraud.

As mentioned, there can be variations in the behavior of scammers.

1) The attempted theft between the outside tables of the bars.

2) The feigned deaf-mutes variant. Sometimes the latters could be truly disabled but scammers nonetheless.

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