The Street Paintings Sellers Trap

A street artist is reproducing the Leonardo's Monnalisa painting it on the ground, in a street.

I’m sure you’ve seen these scammers at least once. These Random Encounters favour touristic and crowded streets. Even better if pedestrian such as shopping or historical streets.

They are those sellers who scatter their “oil paintings” on the ground at the mercy of people’s footsteps.

At first glance they will look like painters selling their work on the street. They are actually another kind of artist.

1) How it works

I’ve always wondered what could push an artist to risk their work being accidentally ruined. The explanation is that those are not paintings but normal paper prints with some colours or oils added on.

Furthermore, the scammers’ plan requires someone to step on one of their “precious” works so they can start demanding money from the victim.

2) What you risk

Scammers and their accomplices could resort to intimidation or explicit threats to force you to compensate their ruined “masterpiece”. They will try to rip you off as much as possible.

Taking advantage of your distraction, they may even try to pickpocket you (click here to read the main article).

The sketch shows two scammers with their fake oil paintings placed on the ground. They are waiting for someone to step on the paintings to start the scam.
The scammers' trap has been set. (Credit - TouristScams via DreamStudio from kacierose4, TikTok)

3) How to avoid it

Be always aware of the environment around you, especially in crowded places. We will probably never stop repeating it. It is the 101 of wandering around.

If you spot these kind of street artists, just watch your steps. Once you have stepped on the picture, categorically refuse to pay and call out the scam as;

  1. Their position in crowded transit areas exonerates you from any guilt.
  2. Their mere presence as street “sellers” could be illegal. this is the case in many countries.
  3. It is very unlikely that they will physically attack you. They know that the crime attributed would be much more serious. However, this may not be necessarily true for all countries.
Remember to be assertive but not rude, if they start to rage try to deescalate and get away. You could always try to ask passers-by for help. Some fellow travellers or local may come to your rescue. I would do it and while traveling I met quite a lot of people ready to do the same. (I’m a romantic, I know.)

If possible, try to contact a police officer to report the incident.

4) Extras and Thoughts

With this article I don’t want to assert that all street painters or artists are devoted to scam passers-by. I do believe that the scammers are just a minority that sometimes manages to monopolize some crowded areas.


Sometimes the “masterpieces” put at risk are those drawings made directly on the ground (as in the main photo). Again, whatch your feet and, if they ask for compensation, just remember what follows. That paintings will disappear after the first street wash, rain or drink spilled on them.

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