"No one with their sleeves rolled up who walks purposefully with a piece of paper held conspicuously in their hand is ever challenged."A Social Engineering tactic to get what you need done by shouting that it's an emergency and giving orders. This is a favorite tactic of High School Hustlers, Phantom Thieves, and MacGyver-like characters. They enlist others in their Stone Soup or Fence Painting project simply by acting in charge. The Gadfly or The Trickster is more likely interested in confusing the hell out of people. In some works, all you need to do is look like you're in charge and know what you're doing. In order for it to work, the person's claim to authority must go completely unchallenged. Even one dissenter can set off a chain reaction that causes the plan to completely unravel. The most common candidates are rebellious young people and conspiracy theorists who distrust authority as matter of course, as well as children or other people who are Too Dumb to Fool, lack the social conditioning to defer to authority, and don't understand why the loud man is being so mean and bossy. It's commonly used to criticize modern culture as overly sheeplike and/or show the main character as cool, intelligent, and/or rebellious. The idea is that if you push the Authority Button on the drones, they'll do whatever you tell them to, no matter how absurd. A second critique is that modern culture is boring—the drones aren't so much obeying, but following the excitement. So despite the fact that the employer of this gambit is deceiving people, breaking many laws, or causing a lot of inconvenience, the portrayal of their actions is usually a sympathetic one. It's for a Book is often a subtrope of this. May involve deploying the Clipboard of Authority, Mugged for Disguise, and Delivery Guy Infiltration. The Trope Namer is The Illuminatus Trilogy, in which the ploy is used as a metaphor for how the Bavarian Illuminati maintain their power. Related tropes include Trojan Prisoner, where the emphasis is on the disguise rather than the bluff; The Guards Must Be Crazy, which is often how people fall for this; and Refuge in Audacity, which is often how it's pulled off. This trope can be combined with Safety in Muggles to manipulate enemies bound to respect the Masquerade into going along with the crowd...or alienating them from it. Compare Impersonating an Officer, where the person outright claims to be a law officer or other Reasonable Authority Figure. Compare Empty Cop Threat when an officer is applying pressure on a witness with white lies. Often Truth in Television. See also TV Tropes' handy how to guide on how to pull off one of these.
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Anime & Manga
- At one point in Arakawa Under the Bridge, Shiro, wearing his Salary Man suit, uses the magic words taught by Ric to get rid of contractors inspecting the land: "Great work, that's enough for today." The contractors promptly pack up and leave, satisfied at their great work and their boss's understanding attitude.
- In Tenchi Muyo! GXP, Mitoto Kuramitsu (mother of Mihoshi Kuramitsu—yes, that Mihoshi) wanders around everywhere cleaning, in one episode dragging Seina Yamada along through all sorts of odd locations, including pirate ship command decks and other dangerous locations, and doing the same thing with Seiryo Tennan in another. But, then, she's nearly classifiable as Too Dumb to Live, which is probably why nobody really seems to bother her.
- Haruhi Suzumiya in the fourth novel and the movie uses this to capture Mikuru Asahina.
Haruhi: Which one of you is Mikuru Asahina? Hi, I'm Haruhi Suzumiya, from the Student Council Information Division. Please come with me!
- Lupin III usually combines this with Latex Perfection to get the cops that were chasing him to go the wrong way.
- Axis Powers Hetalia: Germany does this in the world conference episode. America, France, and England are arguing, Switzerland is threatening to beat up Japan, China has brought food, Russia is trying to intimidate the Baltics, and Greece has fallen asleep.
Germany: Everyone shut up! We've called this conference to solve the world's problems, not to fight about the problems of our past, and since I'm the only one who seems to know how to run a meeting, we'll follow my rules from here on out! Eight minutes each for speeches, no chit-chat about side deals, and absolutely no going over the time limit. Now, if you want to go, make sure you're prepared and raise your hand, but do so in a way that does not mock anything from my country's past!
- Akira of Eden of the East is as good at pulling these as he is with more complicated schemes. One notable example is in the first movie, wherein he gets an unhelpful cab driver to look for/return Saki's bag. Akira claims he is an officer and that Saki is a dangerous terrorist who he has taken into custody, and he suggests that there may be a bomb in her bag. He pulls this off by briefly flashing his wallet and having Saki stand with a jacket draped over her hands to suggest she was handcuffed.
- In Barefoot Gen, Gen and Shinji bang on pots and shout fire to announce that their big brother has enlisted.
- An episode of Pokémon had Team Rocket get into a radio station simply by dressing up glitzy and walking through the front door. By just saying they have an appointment, the guard doesn't stop them.
- In the first arc of Liar Game, this is how Akiyama gets back Nao's 100 million (and the 100 million belonging to her Jerk Ass opponent): dressing up as an employee of the Liar Game Office, showing up to 'collect' the money, and then handing it all to her when the real guys arrive. It helps that A) he had Nao constantly watch said opponent to psyche him out so he'd be less likely to ask questions, B) he made a fake version of the Liar Game cards with an earlier collection time listed while they were both busy, and C) neither of them had actually met the Liar Game officials in person beforehand.
- Virtually half of the G-8 filler arc in One Piece is a Bavarian fire drill. The crew gets stuck in a naval base and have to disguise themselves. Two claim to be the new kitchen help that the base was expecting. One disguises himself as a janitor, and is caught pretty quickly. Two others start working in the infirmary. One more starts working on ships in an attempt to get closer to their own. The biggest example has a rigmarole of one character knocking out the expected inspector, taking his clothing and his identity. Eventually, most of them are caught excluding the "inspector," who even refuses to confirm another crewmate's lies. Eventually the real inspector is caught, assumed to be a straw hat, and taken to the brig. Those already captured keep the real inspector behind bars.
- A small scale one in the Edolas arc of Fairy Tail. Carla tells the enemy she's a princess. It doesn't keep their pursuers from chasing them for long, though it does save Lucy. It's inadvertently true, though.
- In Eikou No Napoleon-Eroica this is how the traitorous former general Malet nearly took over the French Empire: he donned his old uniform, walked in a barrack with a fake letter saying that Napoleon was dead and he had orders to take over, and started doing just that. This specific incident is historically accurate.
- This incident also shows how hard is to pull it off: when Malet goes at the home of general Hulin this one demands to see his orders, and Malet barely managed to keep the troops' loyalty; immediately after that he walked in the military and showed the letter to the officer on duty, who checked the date, noted it was dated from earlier than some letters coming directly from Napoleon he had, and shouted just that, getting Malet arrested by the troops that were helping him just a second before; and when Napoleon (currently in Russia) finds out he wonders why nobody proclaimed his son heir, something that would have ruined the coup by forcing Malet to either reveal his true colours (and get shot as a traitor) or appear before the Senate, who knew that Napoleon was still alive and had the authority to have him arrested.
- Shows up from time to time in Rose of Versailles:
- When the cunning Jeanne Valois wanted to befriend the queen for her scams she mentioned that all you need to walk past the guards at Versailles is a sword and a Nice Hat, but when she and her husband Nicholas had passed the guards and were starting their show Nicolas saw that Oscar, his commanding officer, was with the queen, and they had to run away before they would get exposed and arrested.
- Most of Jeanne's scams worked that way, with Jeanne feigning to be connected to someone important and conning money out of rich people who believed her. In fact her attempt at walking up to Marie Antoinette and befriend her came after she claimed just that to the cardinal de Rohan and realized it was too big of a lie for anyone with a lick of common sense (thankfully, Rohan was just that stupid).
- After transferring to the French Guards Oscar herself once had to pull one on her own soldiers: during a night guard her soldiers (the one unit that night that took their duty seriously) had caught Fersen loitering in the grounds of Versailles and arrested him and, after ordering his release, told them he was a general with top secret reasons for being there so they would not tell anyone of the incident and describe him. Note that Fersen, as a colonel in the Swedish regiment of the French Army, had the right of being there, it's just he wasn't in uniform and being caught there at night could have caused a scandal.
- Reigen Arataka of Mob Psycho 100 does this unintentionally. When his student goes missing, he tracks him to the headquarters of evil esper organization, Claw, who - unbeknownst to Reigen - have abducted Mob, his brother, and several other psychic children (Reigen just thinks they're "some shifty group"). The guards demand to know who he is, but Reigen replies that he's run out of business cards and is only "here to talk things over with my subordinate"; they end up assuming that the subordinate he's referring to is their commander, meaning he must be the shadowy, rarely-seen leader of Claw. (It helps that the guards are already very confused and jumpy from Mob breaking in earlier to find his brother, and Claw's higher-ups don't normally treat the Mooks well, so they're eager to get on his good side.) The misunderstanding is continued on the other side of things by the fact that none of Mob's friends have ever seen Reigen, either, though it's clear that, at some point, he realizes what's going on and rolls with it as an attempt to get them all out of there safely - and by time the truth is revealed, he's won over the guards enough to get them to desert.
- A serial case in the Blake's 7 audio "Counterfeit". Blake bluffs his way into a scientific work camp as a new prisoner. Above ground, Avon uses the power of sheer arrogance to impersonate Space Commander Travis (a man, let us remind you, with one eye and an artificial hand). Eventually, however, they're both unmasked and Supreme Commander Servalan herself arrives to take the prisoners off the Governor's hands. They recognise her at once of course - the way she dominates the room, the white dress, the hair. It's Jenna.
- Near the end of the audio play for the Halo 2 Alternate Reality Game I Love Bees, Ronnie manages to bluff her way into getting past the guard with her admittedly low security clearance by pointing out that he's been chewing 'pick-up sticks' on duty, and that the penalty therefore is technically treason.
- John Constantine of Hellblazer is fond of doing this from time to time.
- In Alan Moore's Top 10 series, a character who legitimately is a high and feared official uses these tactics in pursuit of a decidedly unofficial personal agenda.
- All due respect, sir...permission to use extreme force.
- Transmetropolitan: Spider Jerusalem uses one of these to see the president, busting into the men's room brandishing a crucifix and claiming to be an accredited exorcist.
- This is one of Spider's favorite tools and one of the reasons he hates fame is that he can't pull this off because people recognize him.
- He sometimes uses his fame to work to this end with the principle "follow the famous crazy person".
- Tommy Monaghan, from Hitman, pulled this off in order to gather intel and save his friend Natt the Hat. He simply went up to the last man in line on the string of Mafia goons leading Natt's apartment and pretended to be another guy sent by the boss. Upon learning 'they' were going to get Tommy next, gunfire ensued.
- In Robo-Hunter (a long-running although intermittent strip in 2000 AD) Sam Slade, the protagonist, is trapped on a planet populated by robots that imprisoned all the colonists they were supposed to prepare the planet for. It turns out that the first robot who built everything else had a very glorified view of humans, and when the first colonists showed up, they weren't the walking gods the robots expected. So they decided these were Simulated humans, or "Sims", that they didn't have to obey. Sam manages to get around by claiming to be a "Simulated Sim", complete with fake blood and all. Later, he tricks the robots in a factory into thinking he's a higher-ranking robot by wearing encoded plating from some higher-ranking robots, which he managed to destroy by convincing them to put their heads to his gun. Three guesses how he managed that...
- In Gotham Central, Jack Dunning appears in the middle of the Major Crimes Unit squadroom right at the height of an intense investigation revolving around multiple murders of young men dressed in Robin costumes. When Stacy, the receptionist, asks how he even got into the building, he explains that he just walked past the desk sergeant like he knew what he was doing and nobody said anything.
- Tintin impersonates a Japanese officer like this in The Blue Lotus. He got around not speaking with the right accent by simply not saying anything and just communicating with hand gestures and glares.
- One of Paperinik's usual tricks is this: walking in whatever place he's infiltrating while wearing some disguise, issue orders or demands, and wait for everyone to fall for it. His greatest hit so far comes from the Paperinik New Era story "Chronicle of a Return", where he used the fact the new group of Evronians had lost all their officers and was led by the only surviving sergeant to take over command of their Planet Spaceship by telling them he was an ally and that the emperor would be pissed if they bothered him just for that.
- Blacksad always carries a fake badge so he can pass as any federal agent simply by sweet talking and quick flashing of it, he tears it up in the third volume after it stops working.
- In one story arc of Nodwick Artax receives a distress call from another wizard who says she is under attack. Their attempts to enter her castle are rebuffed until Nodwick tells the guard that they are maintenance contractors there to fix the moat at which point they let in without question.
Nodwick: The Thieves' guild would be unstoppable if they invested in blue coveralls with the name "Al" embroidered on them.
- 3 Slytherin Marauders: Draco throws a tantrum and Lucius demands the Ministry workers stop whatever they're doing and assist him so that Arthur Weasley can sneak in to find evidence that Rufus Scrimgeour and Dolores Umbridge are plotting to steal Harry away from his family.
- Dirty Sympathy: Apollo manages to bluff his way into Klavier's hospital room by flashing his attorney badge to the nurse, carrying manila files, and saying that the law office sent him to have Klavier sign off some paperwork or to at least tell him who to resign to.
- Inspected by No.13 is probably one of the only examples where the Drillee (Harry) is faking authority that he doesn't realize he actually has, and gets away with it because everyone else knows it, by becoming the titular Inspector without realizing it.
- Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Haruhi pulls this off after Kyon is shot. Not only does she convince everyone a movie is being filmed, she manages to pass off the attackers as insubordinate actors.
- Point of Succession: Matt impersonates a police officer in order to assist in L's investigation of B. Later, Light engineers one in order to steal evidence for L's investigation in which he pretended to be from the Japanese embassy and instigated a loud, self-righteous shouting match with the police over burial rights while his accomplice broke in.
- This Bites!:
- In Chapter 18, Cross pulls channels Gunnery Sergeant Hartman to outfox a trio of Marine Mooks.
- In Chapter 32, Nami accidentally finds herself impersonating a Marine Captain and takes Drill Sergeant Nasty Up to Eleven as she yells at a Marine for bumping into her.
- From the same chapter, in addition to what all the other crew are doing, Sanji and Luffy outsmart a group of Marines when they run away from Vice Admiral Jonathan by yelling in a panicked tone that Jessica (Jonathan's wife) just learned he's been throwing out the meals she made him. Which is true.
- Cross had Soundbite use an approximation of Spandam's voice to order the Marines to shell the portion of the tower Spandam is in with mortars.
- Cross and Soundbite pull off an entire series of these to tie up the Buster Call ships into shooting each other.
- Uplifted: Captain Hanala'Jarva vas Devoas pulls this off at the beginning. Facing capture by the Nazis, she informs them that if the fleet doesn't hear back from them in 30 days, the Quarians will bombard humanity off the Galactic map, despite the fleet believing her KIA and having only 2 surviving crew. This results in the Nazi regime believing her to be an authorized representative of her people, a status which she takes full advantage of.
- Xendra: the Scoobies manage to sneak into a morgue multiple times (to deal with vampires before they can rise) by doing what Jonathan refers to as "Holding a clipboard and acting like they don't want to be there."
- This Blue Exorcist fic has Shiemi accidentally pull this on Amaimon, getting him to help her in her garden. Yukio has the appropriate reaction when he sees this—freak out, then just hang around to watch.
- In Ah, Screw It!, Harry takes over his first transfiguration lesson in the new timeline and everyone goes along with it, including McGonagall who's sitting on her desk as a cat. When Ron walks in several minutes late and Harry snaps at him for being late and to take a seat, Ron doesn't even question it.
Film — Animated
- In Shrek 2, Shrek gets into the Fairy Godmother's factory by claiming to be from "the Union".
Shrek: We represent the workers in all magical industries, both evil and benign. Have you been feeling oppressed or degraded lately?
Secretary Elf: [perking up] Um, maybe...
- Subverted in Titan A.E. when Preed tries to bully the guard to the slave pens by pretending to be a slave trader. The guard shows he's smart and not just Dumb Muscle by pointing out all the flaws in the masquerade, forcing Preed's companion to knock him out. Preed hangs a final lampshade on the subversion with the comment, "A smart guard. Didn't see that coming."
- In Hoodwinked this is how The Wolf is able to infiltrate the villain's lair by pretending to be a building inspector for evil geniuses to make sure everything is up to code, he even has the complete disguise of button-up shirt, tie, hard-hat, glasses and clipboard.
- In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), the rescue party enters Canterlot by delivering a cake as a Trojan Horse which they claim was ordered by the Storm King himself to celebrate his victory and which he's going to be angry if he doesn't get.
- In The Boss Baby, when a flight attendant asks Tim and the Boss Baby to explain their presence as the sole passengers in first class on the Elvis Convention flight to Las Vegas, they claim to be the captain's kids. Not only does it work, but they also throw their own little party by getting the flight attendant to bring them stuff like a piñata when she asks if there's anything they need. Later, when disembarking, they address the captain as "Dad" before slipping away.
Film — Live-Action
- In Accepted, Bartelbee is able to sneak into a college frat party by wearing a suit and pretending to know the fraternity’s members.
- In The Beast Master 2, an atom bomb big enough to destroy the world is stolen by the main villain. He steals a general's uniform, security papers and memories, then walks right in to the secure military base, being allowed past the gate and all the way up to the bomb itself before being so much as questioned despite the fact that he has a leather patch fixed over half his face.
- A favored tactic of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop: his usual tactics include flashing his police badge around too quickly for anyone to see that he's out of his jurisdiction (the films take place in Beverly Hills and he isn't a Beverly Hills Cop) and claiming to be one of a variety of other important figures.
- In the first film, a security guard catches him in a warehouse where he isn't supposed to be, so what does he do? Yells loudly for the guard to come over, and then asks him for a match (which the guard provides). He then flashes his badge and demands to see the supervisor.
- Eddie Murphy first pulled this stunt off in 48 Hrs., and would do so again in The Golden Child.
- The protagonist and his Girl Friday in Big Fat Liar seem to do this every five minutes or so throughout the movie.
- In Big Trouble in Little China, Jack and Wang bluff their way through the front office of the Wing Kong Exchange by pretending to be telephone repairmen, walking right past the guards without being stopped by keeping up a stream of fake phone jargon. Jack is carrying a phone on the assumption that this will lend some credibility.
- In Black Sunday, Lander uses the confusion caused by an engine fire to get his own ground crew to load the bomb he intends to use on the Super Bowl crowd onto the base of the Goodyear Blimp.
- Jake Blues in The Blues Brothers buys time to get away from a gig gone bad by flashing a pack of cigarettes like a badge and claiming to be a union representative.
- This is an important part of Frank Abagnale's con schemes in Catch Me If You Can. Near the beginning of the movie, Frank pretends to be the substitute teacher for the French class at his new high school. It took a week for the faculty to catch on, during which time he already held a parent-teacher conference and was planning a field trip. He also talked his way out of an arrest by FBI agent Carl Hanratty by posing as a member of the Secret Service. Amusingly, this is a case in which reality was more awesome, in that he escaped from prison by impersonating the same FBI agent that arrested him. Truth in Movies—Frank Abagnale, the real man the film is based on, filled the spots of several highly-skilled positions (doctor, priest, teacher, pilot, etc.) over the course of his life. Amazingly enough, this trope didn't apply to his short "career" as a lawyer; Abagnale studied, took the bar exam, and passed, and thus wasn't "pretending" to be a lawyer at all (although he only passed that one by redoing the same exam until he eliminated all his mistakes).
- Charlie of The Deal (2008) manages to keep the film production constantly moving forward by acting like he knows the exact right next step and alternately banding everyone together to act as one and getting them to fight each other.
- In The Devil's Rejects, Captain Spaulding commandeers a car by giving the driver the line "I've got to borrow your car, ma'am. Official clown business." This backfires, so he has to headbutt her and steal the car. Also scares the shit out of her son.
- "What's the matter, son? Don't you like clowns?! Aren't we fuckin' funny?!"
- In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, this trope is attempted by Ferris' best friend on the phone to the headmaster, claiming to be the father of Ferris' girlfriend and that her grandmother has died. The headmaster assumes it's Ferris and abuses him over the phone, just as Ferris calls in on another line to talk to the headmaster. They also use this as a trio with the girlfriend at an upmarket club to have lunch pretending to be a preexisting booking, with Ferris using a phone from another room to trick the head waiter.
- Many movies use the "existing booking" stunt at a hotel, wedding, funeral, etc. It helps to pick a common surname like Smith or Jones.
- Then there's the famous "Twist and Shout" scene. How he got onto a parade float with a group of Bavarian girls is left unexplained, but by that point in the movie, he'd previously demonstrated his aptitude with Bavarian Fire Drills.
- In Flightplan, this is how the kidnapper pulls off the girl's disappearance without anyone noticing.
- A version of this is pulled in the movie Hackers, where the male lead talks a guard on night watch at the local TV station into handing over the number to the modem by claiming to work in accounting. Words like "BLT drive" are exchanged.
- Mildly in Heat, where McCauley merely needs to look and sound like he belongs in order not to be challenged by the hotel staff. And also done right at the beginning of the film to steal an ambulance.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy manages to get away with beating up and hurling a suspicious SS officer out of a zeppelin by wearing a ticket taker's outfit and flatly telling all of the passengers, "No ticket" in English, without bothering to mimic a German accent. Everyone immediately pulls out their tickets and frantically wave them at him lest they be the next one.
- Earlier in the film, he attempts to bluff his way into the nazi-occupied castle by saying he's a Scottish lord interested in viewing the tapestries. He tries ordering the butler away with an irate and impatient attitude, but unfortunately the butler isn't buying it for a second, so Indy just has to knock him out.
- James Bond:
- In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond donned a lab coat, grabbed a clipboard and masqueraded as "Klaus Hergesheimer, G Section" (whom he had met earlier) to explore the secret installation where the Kill Sat was being created.
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond attempts (and succeeds) to masquerade as the villain, Scaramanga, to a Thai entrepreneur—by pasting a third nipple on himself and hanging out proudly by the pool. He's gambling on the idea that that the entrepreneur and Scaramanga have never met in person, and that the entrepreneur would only know Scaramanga by his identifying physical oddity. The plan works, but then Bond gets found out and used for practice by a Thai krabi krabong school. Turns out, Scaramanga was right there.
- The World Is Not Enough: The bad guys have kidnapped and killed an elderly official from Russia's Atomic Energy Authority, planning to replace him to aid their theft of plutonium. Bond kills and replaces their replacement (fooling the bad guys into getting him transport), and successfully bluffs his way into the nuclear disarmament site that is going to be robbed. The subversion comes from the fact that Dr. Christmas Jones, the film's Girl of the Week, saw straight through it and let Bond through while she grabbed security. She arrives just as Bond is trying to foil The Dragon's real theft.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled this in Jingle All the Way, showing a fake badge and ordering cops around during the raid on Santas' counterfeit toy factory.
- A recurring gag in Buster Keaton films is for Keaton's character to start acting like a traffic cop.
- In The Last Samurai, the guards stationed around Katsumoto's house have this routine pulled on them by interpreter Simon Graham, who convinces them that Tom Cruise is the President of the United States.
Algren: The President of the United States?
Simon Graham: Sorry. I think I'm going to be sick.
- A favorite tactic of K in Men in Black; it's even lampshaded in the novel: act like you're in charge and everybody will act like you are.
K: Damn, what a gullible breed.
- In the remake of Ocean's Eleven:
- Rusty Ryan pulls this, rescuing Basher from arrest by barging onto the scene and acting like a detective, taking charge of the arrest and getting rid of the officer by ordering him to go find someone who didn't exist.
Rusty: Go find Griggs, tell him I need to talk to him.
Rusty: JUST FIND HIM, ALL RIGHT?
- A number of team members posed as the SWAT team sent to secure Benedict's vault, faked an assault on the intruders, then trooped out of the casino in plain view, concealing the money in their equipment and ammo bags.
- Rusty Ryan pulls this, rescuing Basher from arrest by barging onto the scene and acting like a detective, taking charge of the arrest and getting rid of the officer by ordering him to go find someone who didn't exist.
- In The Paper, Michael Keaton claims (and demonstrates!) that all you need to get into any building in the world is a clipboard and a confident wave.
- In Pitch Black, Riddick's captor lets the other crash survivors believe he's the equivalent of a federal marshal, but is a drug-addicted mercenary, out to collect the price on Riddick's head.
- In Race to Witch Mountain, Dr. Friedman pulls one of these on the people studying the spaceship to get them to leave.
- In The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, the titular character managed to successfully become part of an advertising agency by going in with a clipboard, looking like he knew what he was doing and saying he was with "efficiency", and everyone perfectly buys it!
- In the 1987 film The Secret of My Success, whiz kid business school graduate Brantley Foster is given a charity mailroom job by his uncle when the company he was supposed to go to work for goes under on his first day. He becomes a mid-level executive in his uncle's company simply by taking over an unoccupied office, requisitioning supplies, and getting a secretary from the company pool. He plays the part so well that no one catches on to what he's doing. It helps that his mailroom job lets him go anywhere in the building unnoticed, talk to almost anyone, and observe the workings of the corporation in a way that the other executives can't.
- The Dutch World War II epic Soldier of Orange features one of the ballsier examples, when a Dutch Resistance member is able to infiltrate a German officer's party in a British Royal Navy officer's uniform, because it looks similar enough to a Kriegsmarine one "...at a distance". At one point, he bluffs his way right through a German roadblock by looking the guards in the eyes sternly. They are left wondering about the meaning of that strange, crown-like emblem on his hat.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty and McCoy, who are trying to build a giant water tank, barge into a Plexiglas manufacturer on an "invited tour" which the manager knows nothing about, prompting Scotty to go on a tirade, demanding to see the owners until the manager offers to conduct their tour personally. They pull another one later in the film, using a fake medical emergency to get past two guards at a hospital.
Leonard McCoy: This woman has acute post-prandial upper abdominal distension!(The guards let them in.)James T. Kirk: What did you say she's got?Leonard McCoy: Cramps.
- Star Wars: In A New Hope, when some Stormtroopers are breaking into the control room they're hiding in, C-3PO and R2-D2 simply hide in a nearby closet: when the troopers discover them, 3PO claims they were locked in by the intruders.
- In Taken, Bryan Mills blusters his way into the office of an Albanian white slavery ring by claiming to be a policeman — and once inside, demanding bribe money from them to keep the police off their backs.
- Accidentally invoked and taken to its ultimate extreme in Israeli comedy film Te'alat Blaumilch (translation: The Blaumilch Canal; English title: The Big Dig) in which a lunatic escapes from an asylum and starts digging up a major road. When it comes to official notice, he is given every assistance possible, despite numerous complaints. Hilarity Ensues, especially when they reach the sea.
- The 1941 film They Met In Bombay, starring Clark Gable, had his character, dressed as a British officer, ordering soldiers he finds on the street to follow him. Eventually he is sent by the British army into battle against the Japanese. His performance is such that he is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, at which point they find out that not only is he not in the army at all, he's a notorious jewel thief who disguised himself as an officer as part of a scam.
- Whats The Worst That Could Happen? features several of these by professional thief Kevin Caffrey in his attempt to steal his girlfriend's ring back from media tycoon billionaire Max Fairbanks. The two most notable include Kevin and his partner sneaking into Max's private penthouse suite by posing as an Arabian prince (with a Holiday Inn towel around his head); and in the climax a literal example when Kevin's crew starts a phony fire allowing Kevin, disguised as a firefighter, to run right up to Max and steal the ring.
- Played for Laughs in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The '70s Xavier tries this on a couple of guards in the Pentagon, but lacks the somber gravitas of his future self. Logan listens with exasperation as Charles rambles in an unconvincing fashion, eventually losing patience and knocking out the guards.
Logan: Oh, I'm sorry. Are you finished?
- The Yes Men is a documentary of a group of activists who went around the world pulling off stunts like these, getting to hold speeches at all sorts of institutes, universities, and getting on news broadcasts. Selection of topics their Straw Man alter egos supported are recycling "human waste" into food in the third world, and reinstating slavery for the benefit of the clothing industry.
- Used in Masques, where a character steals the keys, uses them to get something he wants out of a locked room, and on his way past the guards hands them the keys back and tells them to be more careful from now on. They don't notice that something is amiss until after he has left.
- Gus pulls this in The Fault in Our Stars when he, Hazel, and Isaac egg Isaac's ex-girlfriend Monica's car and are caught by Monica's mom. It works.
"Ma'am, your daughter's car is deservedly being egged by a blind man. Please go inside before we call the police."
- The title character from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency cons his way onto the site of a murder investigation by simply falling into step with a policeman entering the crime scene and offhandedly saying, "It's okay, he's with me," to the officer stationed at the entrance. Once inside, by acting confident and official, he is able to order the cops to do several strange and useless things in order to get them out of the way. A detective who knew Dirk recognized he'd been present upon finding one cop disassembling a wastepaper basket and another defending a sofa immovably stuck halfway up the stairs with a handsaw.
- In the sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Dirk is prepared to use a rapidly-produced and -returned Marks and Spencer loyalty card as ID, only to find that the officer guarding the scene has been told who he is and to let him in.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Ford Prefect helps Arthur and Fenchurch board a flying saucer through a crowd of curious onlookers by wearing a lab coat and "randomly" choosing the couple to help him carry his "scientific equipment".
- In Mostly Harmless, Ford gets himself and Arthur into an exclusive club with his usual method: he walks right past the bouncer, points at Arthur, and says, "He's with me."
- At one point Ford mentions he and a rock band he used to hang out with would pretend to be health inspectors, eat other people's meals, and then get food poisoning.
- The Trope Namer comes from the Illuminatus! trilogy, where Simon Moon used it to illustrate how most people will follow even nonsensical orders if given in a tone of authority: he stops several cars in the middle of traffic, shouting, "Bavarian Fire Drill! Everyone out! Stay in line!", getting the perplexed drivers to follow him in marching in a circle around their cars before then getting back in as if nothing had happened. The name itself is a reference to the old prank of a "Chinese fire drill", where the passengers in a car stopped at a sign or light all get out at once and get back in different seats.
- And that name in turn comes from a messed up fire drill by Chinese sailors under British officers, where a miscommunication caused the bucket brigade to fill up buckets on one side of the ship and toss them out on the other side.
- "Bavarian" is used because that was where the The Illuminati got their start, at least in Real Life.
- Used by the central protagonist James Wormold in Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene, in which Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, is recruited by MI-6 as an intelligence agent, stationed in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. His evidence for what he claims is a secret military instillation is several drawings of enlarged scale vacuum cleaner parts. For which he receives an OBE.
- Several characters in the Discworld novels have gotten their way simply by acting like they're in charge or that they belong where they're not supposed to be. Victor Tugelbend does it to get into a "clicks" studio in Moving Pictures, where the narration states "No-one with their sleeves rolled up who walks purposefully with a piece of paper held conspicuously in their hand is ever challenged." Moist von Lipwig is rather fond of this in Going Postal and Making Money. And Granny Weatherwax has passed for nobility in both Witches Abroad and Maskerade by simply dressing the part and being her usual bossy know-it-all self, since many folks on the Disc "confuse bad manners with good breeding". Nanny Ogg, on the other hand, gets through crowds by acting like a servant. Even Corporal "Nobby" Nobbs, who has to carry around papers proving his species (probably human), manages to pull this off with ease in Men at Arms. Although Nobby has spent time in the army (well, several armies, depending on who was winning) so he had probably has a lot of practice with this.
- It's also been noted on at least one occasion that tenure at Unseen University is a matter of finding an empty office, turning up for dinner on time, and hoping you don't attract students.
- Lu-Tze could be considered an inversion of this trope: he has considerable authority as the History Monks' top field operative, but slips by everyone unchallenged because he dresses simply and carries a broom. This makes him a servant and therefore invisible, even to novice History Monks. He became the best of the best because no one noticed him attending every single lesson and going anywhere he wanted in the temple.
- When Sam Vimes finds himself faced with a situation where everyone is waiting for orders, he takes advantage by giving orders. It usually takes the rest of the universe a few seconds to catch up, and they don't always fully realize the situation.
- Rincewind does this in Interesting Times. He runs into a school while being chased, dons a pair of glasses, and tells his would-be captors to get out of the exam he's presiding over. They abide.
- William, in The Truth, exploits this technique when he tells Nobby "Yes, I've been talking to Commander Vimes, and now I would like to see the room where the crime was committed," and thinks that while the implication is that Vimes has given him permission, William has not claimed this. Unfortunately for him, he shortly runs into a smarter cop.
- Nanny Ogg (mentioned above) puts this trope to such effective use that she's an entire intelligence network by herself. Where Granny practices stealth by remaining unseen, Nanny prefers to go unnoticed. She blends in and convinces everyone she's just a harmless, drunken, and, above all, common old biddy, and, before anyone realizes what they've said, she knows more than Granny would have found out with an hour of bullying.
- Glenda from Unseen Academicals, after going through some Character Development, indulges in a bit of this. She describes it as taking advantage of the fact that, despite the impression some people give, most folks will not hit you with a hammer if you "step out of line" and will be at a complete loss if you do.
- Vetinari actually is in charge so has no need to pull these off normally, but in Jingo he's disguised as a traveling entertainer and pulls one in order to steal a flying carpet. There's a donkey stuck up at the top of a minaret. Vetinari encourages someone to go and get him a flying carpet to get the donkey down. While the person is fetching it, Vetinari brings the donkey down from the minaret himself, then steals the carpet while everyone is arguing over how he did it.
- In the Jack Ryan novel The Sum of All Fears, a group of German Marxist/Arab sympathizers—armed only with about ten purchased Russian colonel's uniforms—manage to convince the entire Russian East Berlin garrison to launch an attack on their American counterparts. Though, to be fair, disobedience in Soviet Russia was hardly the most healthy pastime, and, thanks to the Cold War, it only took a few tank shells from the Eastern side to cause a full Western retaliation, to which the Soviet troops naturally had to respond.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- Miles Vorkosigan pulls these off with remarkable skill. In The Warrior's Apprentice, he parlays an old freighter, a bodyguard, a friend, and a couple of losers into a mercenary fleet—with him as its Admiral, a persona/disguise he would use on occasion for over ten years—in a matter of weeks, mostly by force of personality. Not only was he seventeen at the time, but the entire thing was a series of scrambling improvisations started by his impulsive effort to keep the pilot of said freighter (then docked at his mother's homeworld) from doing something stupid because it was about to be scrapped. And then keeps said mercenary fleet (mostly) fooled until he was thirty. Miles Vorkosigan: Galactic Champion of Making Shit Up.
- Miles very much gets this from his mother. The Vorkosigan Saga starts off before Miles is born with Shards of Honor, featuring Miles' mom-to-be Cordelia Naismith, who, over the course of the novel, escapes from some government goons and then flim-flams her way past a couple of tabloid journalists and a spaceport ticket clerk, culminating in fast-talkingnote a young space freighter pilot (in fact, the same freighter pilot Miles would help almost twenty years later) into giving her an entirely-unauthorized ride offplanet...all while wearing (presumably fuzzy) slippers. This some time after she'd already almost singlehandedly quelled a mutiny on a Barrayaran military ship, despite being a prisoner on the ship at the time.
- Inverted in Nikolai Gogol's The Inspector General via Mistaken for Special Guest when the townspeople were expecting an authority figure in disguise.
- Honor Harrington: This is the way Victor Cachat's Indy Ploys usually work.
- During that memorable snafu in Crown of Slaves, he managed to enlist two Manticoran agents, a group of neutral Solarian officers (with their squadron), a bunch of local nobles/dignitaries (who he was courting all that time, trying to pry them from Manticoran Alliance), and the Royal Manticoran Navy Captain—all willingly and with their full support. They all knew who he was and followed him anyway. He also pulls a truly impressive diversion on the Masadan freighter crew, claiming to be a rogue State Sec agent who could possibly use some madmen like them, including at one point "proving" his own fanaticism by ordering the Masadan in charge of the self-destruct to push the button and then sneering when he doesn't do it.
- His feat in Fanatic was no less impressive, but there he had some real authority and just twisted it to his needs.
- In 1634: The Galileo Affair, Captain Lennox and his company manage to work their way into the church where Galileo's trial was being held by pretending to be a Polish delegation, based solely on the Horse Marines being in full dress uniform and exactly one of the group of a half-dozen—Father Gus Heinzerling, a German Jesuit—able to speak Polish.
- Subverted in 1635: The Cannon Law. Ruy Sanchez tells several Spanish soldiers that he is a captain in the Spanish army, and gets valuable information from them. The Americans think he's pulled this, until Sharon informs them that Ruy is a captain in the Spanish army. He just left out the part where he's working for the Americans.
- The Executioner series: When he wasn't being a One-Man Army, Mack Bolan would often pull this stunt on both the local police and the Mafia, usually by posing as an outside Fed or elite hitman sent from New York to kill Bolan.
- So, we are approaching the climax of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Hot on the trail of the Big Bad, Holmes is in need of transportation. He employs a fairly-illegal technique to do so (i.e., hijacks a train at gunpoint), while a police sergeant is standing right behind him. The sergeant starts to protest—whereupon Holmes turns around and gives the man orders in his masterful way and the sergeant runs off to execute them just on the strength of Holmes' delivery. It wasn't even a British policeman.
- In My Life in the Mafia, mobster-turned-informant Vincent Theresa tells of how he stole a load of blank driver's licenses. He walked into the factory, asked someone where they kept the blank licenses, picked up a box of them, and walked out. Everyone he encountered just assumed he worked there.
- A couple of Tom Holt's characters try this. Case in point: resurrected mercenary Kurt Lundqvist manages to hijack a plane by pretending to turn up to stop a hijacking, complete with using a library card to prove his identity.
- Used in Redwall when the young mouse Brome manages to strip a body of a foebeast of its clothes, disguise himself, help a wounded foebeast (while in disguise) back to his encampment, infiltrate it, knock out the wounded beast once inside, free all captives—recruiting one of them to pretend to be a second guard—lead the group of detainees to a secret exit, get noticed by a real guard, then another "''real''" guard, manage to bluff them out of the conversation, twice, and finally escape the foe's encampment, nearly killing themselves in the consequential chase.
- In Dragonlance, the kender have a saying: "Don't change color to match the walls. Act like you belong there and the walls will change color to match you!"
- Used most famously when Tasslehoff Burrfoot, with a grin and a wave, was completely ignored by the guards inside one of the most secure government buildings in a city where anyone of his species is supposed to be arrested on sight.
- In Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the narrator and his guide blag their way into the Administrative Center of Hell by looking like badly-dressed officials (who will be assumed to be secret police).
- In Watership Down, the rabbit hero El-ahrairah (a trickster god) does this in some of his adventures. Inspired by his tales, several protagonist rabbits imprisoned in another warren pull this to distract a guard.
- In Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series, Garrett has done this on occasion, successfully entering and poking around crime scenes by acting like he's supposed to be there. As humans occupy so many positions of authority in Karenta, many nonhumans assume he's authorized to investigate simply because he's a human.
- In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke often uses this to great effect in his schemes, pulling bystanders in and ordering them around to get the results he needs; he once notes that "it was strange, how readily authority could be conjured with nothing but a bit of strutting jackassery."
- In Tim Dorsey's Serge A. Storms books, Serge and his accomplice Coleman pull off a series of ATM thefts simply by walking into a convenience store and wheeling the ATM out on a hand truck. The reason they were allowed to do it? Serge walked in with a clipboard and started making notes to project an air of authority.
- Richard Marcinko uses this when testing security in various military and civilian installations, to surprising, and sometimes terror-inspiring effect. One instance has him express respect for a chef that did not fall for it, instead brandishing a meat cleaver and telling his character to return with an appointment for a health inspection.
- In the Anita Blake series, Anita uses it to varying success to bring along her Animator-in-training on a preternatural crime scene, get support from the police while under attack by zombies in her bedroom sent by a Vauduun High Priestess she rubbed the wrong way, and on many other occasions—though usually without lying directly, merely manipulating the facts.
- Scott Adams describes similar techniques in his books The Dilbert Principle and The Joy Of Work to escape meetings and unpleasant conversations. Most of them involve looking like you have more important things to be doing. Incidentally, he also recounts a story from his early days in the workforce when he tried this himself to get information he needed for a project by sounding more important than he was, but was seen through every time.
- Also from Robert Anton Wilson, who co-wrote Illuminatus!, is The Schroedinger's Cat trilogy, where it's at one point mentioned how Malaclypse the Younger started to drive around in a van with "United Cocaine Smugglers" written in a professional-looking font on the side. At first he got stopped by the police at every turn, the whole thing ended up in the news, and the police became laughingstocks. Eventually, they gave up and stopped paying attention to the van. Suddenly, there were hundreds of vans around the country with the same logo on their sides.
- The Bene Gesserit in Dune practice a pseudo-mind control technique called "the Voice" that essentially works like this. It's not as subtle in application—basically, instead of sneaking a push of the authority button and hoping nobody notices you shouldn't be pushing it, the Voice involves ramming that button so hard that the attached brain(s) can't help but respond.
- In Players of Gor, Tarl Cabot is rescued in a timely manner by Andronicus, the only serious actor in Boots Tarsk-Bit's troop, masquerading as a visiting general from an allied city. He says afterwards that "The Imperious General" is one of his best characterizations.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Juliet pulls one by way of joining a SWAT team. Artemis also pulls them frequently.
- In Book 8 of the Ranger's Apprentice series, Will uses this to infiltrate an Outsider camp. One of Halt's many Ranger lessons is "Always seem to have a purpose. If people think there's a reason you're in a place, odds are they won't bother to challenge you."
- Near the end of The Way of Kings, Kaladin pulls this when Dalinar's army is betrayed by Sadeas. Not only does he go back to rescue an entire army with only 30 men, but he also starts ordering around the soldiers who completely outrank him (he's a slave). To take it Up to Eleven, he then proceeds to promote soldiers, order around Adolin, the Highprince's son, and then decides to go find Dalinar, the Highprince and commanding general himself, and order him to flee. And it works!
- In Futuretrack Five, it's how Kitson and Keri gain access to the Cambridge Centre. Justified somewhat in that he did work there in a position of some authority (technically still does and everyone he encounters recognises him) and knows both his way around and the people he encounters; this knowledge also allows him to teach Keri to look and act like she belongs. He even tells everyone to look out for intruders dressed as Paramils to add to the confusion.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel: The Pimpernel often uses this tactic. One example from the first book has a guard leader at a town gate, particularly determined to locate the Pimpernel, rigorously searching the carts and belongings of a group of traders and farmers. Once they're gone, however, a squad of soldiers rides up and announces that the Pimpernel has just smuggled a group of escaped prisoners through disguised as farmers and traders, prompting the alarmed guard to send them right through in pursuit. Only while the Pimpernel and the prisoners were disguised and did pass through that gate, they weren't disguised as farmers and traders...
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, the main protagonist, Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon, tricks an unpleasant guard into letting him and the other members of the Society exit the house by stating that they were ordered to get some packages from the car, and then asking in a worried tone if he'll let them back in once they've got the packages. "After all, we do have permission."
- In Star Trek: Cold Equations, book two, Lieutenant Chen is left in command of the Enterprise while the rest of the senior staff are on Orion, and ends up in a standoff with a Gorn ship and another Sovereign-class starship about to fire on each other. She notes internally that she doesn't have superior rank (the other Federation ship has a Lieutenant Commander in charge), a superior ship, or better knowledge of the tactical situation. Externally, she hides her rank insignia and bellows at the other Starfleet officer to back off (even snapping "That's an Order!" despite the fact she doesn't outrank him). It works.
- In Dick Francis' High Stakes, a caper involving switching three horses around is managed by setting up an official-looking roadside mobile office, flagging down the trucks for a "census" and getting the drivers to stand in line waiting to fill out forms while outside their cargoes are being rearranged.
- In Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, protagonist Takeshi Kovacs manages to bluff his way out of a summary execution following a virtual reality torture session by threatening the Envoy Corp's (think big bad space marine types) wrath if they don't let him go. Downplayed in that he was an Envoy, but had left a fair time prior to the book's start.
- In Doom, Fly and Arlene want to report to the Marines but the Mormons don't trust them yet. They bully their way to a radio by acting like an inventory sergeant and his assistant on a tour of inspection, complete with a Clipboard of Authority. Unfortunately, the Marines surrendered to the aliens and their report back to base leads to a human-led assault on the resistance compound. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.
- In Eric Plume's Margin Play, one of these, of the "all you need to do is look like you belong there and know what you're doing" variety is how one character got the case files on a lawyer's client.
- In Dresden Files, Harry is fond of this technique. In Fool Moon, he turns it Up to Eleven with a potion that makes the drinker virtually unnoticeable if he makes even the weakest attempt to look like he belongs. It then backfires on him when he desperately needs to get someone's attention, only to have them react like he's making small talk.
- Wasp: Used by Mowry to great effect. Half of his schemes work on the basis "act as if you were in charge, and nobody will question you". For example, he gets past a military cordon without an exit permit and without being asked too many questions by virtue of being disguised as a Military Intelligence officer and speaking with complete confidence. In another case he manages to plant fake wire-tapping devices on rooftops in full view of numerous bystanders, simply by doing so "openly and with quiet confidence."
- Silk of The Belgariad series is a master of this tactic. On one occasion he gets the True Companions past a patrol looking specifically for them while fleeing an enemy stronghold by brazenly ordering the patrol to move their search to another area.
- Somewhither: Abby, the plucky teenage ninja girl, recommends the best way to avoid getting caught in the Dark Tower: when there are alarms blaring, the way to avoid getting caught is to look absolutely unconcerned and not to run or show fear.
- The heroine of Andrew Clements's school story book, About Average, seems to have an almost instinctive grasp of the advice provided at the top of the real life section of this article. When her music class is trapped in a small school out-building during a recital by an approaching tornado that has already caused heavy damage and knocked their teacher unconscious, she quickly springs into action after mastering her fear. She gives clear, direct commands to specific individuals and assumes a no-questions attitude that is a big help in preventing what would have otherwise been a major disaster.
- A frequent tactic of Nick's in the Nick Velvet stories. In "The Theft from the Onyx Pool", he uses it to steal all of the water from a swimming pool.
- Dortmunder pulls this off brilliantly in What's the Worst That Could Happen?, managing to convince his target's bodyguards to hand the target over to him by faking a fire. (Incidentally, this is one of the few times where A Simple Plan of Dortmunder's runs exactly as he envisaged it.)
- A favorite tactic of Rashid in On Wings of Eagles, by Ken Follett. When the EDS men are detained as they're about to cross the Iranian border, Rashid realizes the overworked rebel commander is likely to just throw them into prison until he has time to deal with them, so takes the initiative by asking to discuss the matter with one of his subordinates, as he's clearly got more important matters to deal with. He does so, and as his commander has already accepted the authority of this stranger (ostensibly from the revolutionary committee in Tehran) Rashid is able to arrange a pass for the EDS men to cross the border.
- Arc Of Fire: Myrren and co. bluff past some guards at one point by using this trick.
- In Horatio Hornblower novel Lietuenant Hornblower, Captain Sawyer—who is devolving into paranoid madness—falls down a hatchway while trying to roust out "mutineers" in the hold (namely, his lieutenants). It's witnessed only by Hornblower, who was unjustly punished, and a Midshipman Wellard, whom Sawyer had beaten repeatedly. Naturally this would lead to suspicions of foul play. The suspicions never take an official form because Hornblower immediately takes charge of the investigation with the midshipman as an assistant, and acting-captain Buckland is too unsettled to not let him. In the end, the question is never resolved because Wellard dies in a storm near the end of the book, and all Hornblower will ever say is that he didn't see it and it must have been an accident, in a very closed-off fashion.
- The protagonists of the Sven Hassel novels do this on several occasions. In "Blitzfreeze", Porta and Tiny con the commander of a supplies depot into giving them all the food they want by pretending to be undercover inspectors. In "Monte Cassino", Heide gets them through several roadblocks while dressed as an SS officer and blustering his way through (it helps that Heide is a rabid Nazi who always wanted to be in the SS, so the power goes to his head). They've also done the NKVD trick mentioned below in the Real Life section, while operating as a commando unit behind enemy lines.
- In The Machineries of Empire, Jedao takes over the Swanknot swarm by waltzing aboard under the pretense of being send there by the Command, with their supposed recommendation being the only thing letting him keep an entire swarm on hold, then acting with enough airs that the formation instinct kicks in and makes them all slavishly obedient.
- In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, Kyousuke needs to infiltrate a hotel where a VIP is staying. As it happens, there's a musical currently airing in the local area, with the White Queen as the lead character... and the actual White Queen is currently working with Kyousuke. He messes up her hair, throws a towel at her and berates her, pretending that she's the lead actress of said musical and that he's another member of the staff. To further the deception, he makes his smartphone ring and pretends to answer a call from his boss.
- In Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian Bernie considers getting into the Charlemagne by starting a phony fire or bomb scare, putting on pajamas and a dressing-gown and mingling with the evacuated residents before giving up the idea when he realizes that it's too late in the evening to purchase said sleepwear. A few paragraphs earlier he calculates the possible success of a similar scheme.
- In Dance of the Butterfly, the vigilante uses this technique to try to get he kidnapped sex slaves out of the criminal's compound, shouting out in an authoritative tone for everyone to evacuate. The fact the vigilante has set off precise explosions to cause fire and chaos only helps to lend legitimacy.
- This is standard operating procedure for both the good and bad guys on 24.
- 30 Rock:
Carol: Yeah, if you walk briskly in a pilot uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere. I was once in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House.
- Subverted when Jenna sneaks into a prince's birthday party. She claims that it's about walking proud, but it's really because she flashed the guards.
- In the season four finale, Tina Fey's character begins to fall in love with an airline pilot named Carol, played by Matt Damon, who manages to enter a wedding reception with no trouble.
- In the vein of faking out Nazis, 'Allo 'Allo! did this a few times.
- Angel has, at least once, gotten into crime scenes and pumped the cop on the scene for information by playing the bossy plainclothes detective, no badge needed. The only thing Angel was holding was a cup of coffee. Which he had just stolen from another cop. File under Rule of Cool for sheer awesomeness (and the ringing sound of clanging steel spheres one might hear when Angel is walking).
- He also snuck into the offices of Wolfram & Hart by pretending to be a lawyer by wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Despite the vampire detectors at the doors.
- Arrested Development:
- One running subplot involved the character of Maeby (Alia Shawkat) who, despite being only 16 years old, gets a job as a movie producer simply by acting like she already was one. This, in turn, is based on an apocryphal story that Steven Spielberg got his first job at a movie studio by simply occupying an empty office and pretending he was supposed to be there.
- Her deception was greatly helped by the fact that Tobias had been talking up the name Funke at the water cooler for the whole day at Maeby's recommendation. And the reason she had done that was because she was skipping school by convincing Tobias that it was "Help Your Dad Achieve His Dream Day", which was another instance of this trope (not to mention that they only got into the film studio in the first place because Maeby convinced the security guard that they were meant to be there. Maeby is a master of this).
- Runs in the family. In another episode, GOB pretended to be a waiter to mess with his mother. He was already wearing a black suit, so he simply grabbed a tray of drinks and walked over to her table. She never looked a waiter in the face, so she didn't notice, and everyone else on staff assumed he was a new guy. At the end of the day, he was given all of his tips, and the narrator explained that GOB had just accidentally worked a day in his life.
- This happens all the time in The A-Team:
- Almost always twice (usually three times) an episode in the early seasons. See, before they hire the A-Team, any prospective employers need to be conned by Hannibal using a Bavarian Fire Drill just to make sure that they aren't really military police trying to capture them. Then Face needs to go and Bavarian Fire Drill a mental institution to get Howling Mad Murdock out for him to join the team again. Then they pull another one to get the equipment/location/air tickets they need for this week's mission. This is so routine that the details are usually not shown.
- In the fourth season of Babylon 5, the rescue of Sheridan from Clark's goons involved Garibaldi donning his old Earth Force uniform and walking into the prison under the pretense of being sent (off the record, of course) to interrogate Sheridan. This only works because Garibaldi was the one who captured Sheridan in the first place, and the guard recognizes him from the news reports. It doesn't work so well on the next set of guards, though, as the guard Garibaldi tries to bluff doesn't watch TV. As a result, Garibaldi and his two partners (Dr. Franklin and Lyta) have to take that pair of guards out using more physical methods.
- Take this trope, mix it with Dead Person Impersonation and throw in a dash of Tempting Fate and you have Banshee.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard "borrows" a robot from NASA. When Penny questions him about it, he says that "the trick is to carry it out to your car like you own it".
- Boston Legal: A client suspected of murder has had candid photos taken of her and posted online by a teenager. Brad gets into the kid's house by telling his mom that he is not allowed to say he's from the FBI, and holding up his wallet without opening it.
"I'm investigating a potential crime. Now, if I had the authority to reveal I was with the FBI, I would say so. But until certain clearances are satisfied, I'm not officially at liberty to tell you anything. Now, as far as you're concerned, you never heard me say that I'm with the FBI, which, for the record, of course I'm not. I need to speak with your son immediately. I think you would like to arrange that before others speak with him. I'm sure you know what I mean."
- Chris Morris plays with this trope a lot. One of his shows, Brass Eye, was largely based around convincing B-list celebrities and politicians to star in absurd PSAs by first preying on their egos and self importance and then acting like it's a deadly serious campaign and somehow managing to keep a straight face while they read from an increasingly-bizarre script he hands them.
"Genetically, pedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me... there's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact!"
- Played hilariously in an episode of Breaking Bad, "Cornered", where Jesse is working with Mike to try and case a group of meth-addicted dealers who acquired a stolen shipment of Blue Meth. He gets turned away when he approaches their door as a buyer, so he goes back to the car and gets out a shovel, he starts digging a hole in the dealers' front yard, and one of the addicts comes out and asks what he's doing, Jesse says that he's digging a hole, which the addict doesn't question. Jesse then asks if the addict can take over digging for him, which the addict does, no question, and then Jesse asks if he can use their bathroom while he waits, and he gains access. Jesse's only explanation for how that worked: "I know meth-heads."
- Done on Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Rupert Giles, ineptly impersonating an agent of Interpol to get information out of a cop. It worked, but only because the cop was under a spell.
- Used to Michael's advantage in many episodes of Burn Notice.
- He also mentions that some marks are just too smart to fall for tricks like this, and therefore he has to use much more inventive methods. In one rather impressive example, he uses "reverse interrogation", setting himself up as a snitch to be interrogated by the bad guy, noting that, while skilled interrogators are good at asking questions without revealing anything, bad interrogators will always tell you more than you tell them.
- This was also zigzagged to hell and back when he needed the security camera tapes of a simple construction company. A woman there was instantly suspicious of him, asking who he worked for and immediately phoning to check. Aware trying to stop her would blow his cover, Mike encourages her to do so... and then she makes the mistake of handing him the phone. He then acts as if everything is fine and gets the information he needs, all while the man on the phone is screaming at him to stop. Aware he's out of time, he causes a distraction and runs. Played straight with him running, as he notes that people run (or at least jog) out of offices all the time, as long as the look on your face says "I'm in a hurry" (presumably as opposed to a guilty look) you can get out just fine. The man he had been talking to manages to tell the woman he's imposter and she calls for security to stop him just after he gets away. This is one of the show's themes: no matter how good a spy you are, you're just as vulnerable as anyone else.
- Michael once charged into a kitchen with a clipboard ordering everyone out, with his narration saying how clipboards are like IDs in certain places if you know how to use them.
- In one episode, he needs to a device nicknamed "the Jaws of Life" for a job, but these things are used to save people from crashed cars and so on, so he doesn't want to steal one that might be needed. So he goes to a training center and tells them he needs to inspect theirs. When he finds out they're using it right then, he runs out screaming for them to stop, that there's a glitch in the device that could cause the blade to shoot out and cut someone in half. They hand it over very quickly.
- At one point, Michael describes that the classic ski-mask to hide your identity is a terrible way to break into someone's home as you'll be instantly recognized as an intruder. Instead, walk in like you own the place, eat some yogurt out of the fridge, etc. If you get caught, act confused, apologize for the yogurt and leave.
- Candid Camera:
- One Candid Camera Prank involved having a man dressed as a police officer stand with a flimsy white barrier gate. When somebody came up, he would inform them that Delaware was closed today, but that they could go to New Jersey if they wanted. It worked. One dupe, upon being informed that Delaware was closed, replied, "Good." This prank was repeated with the State of Texas being "closed", and in Great Britain with the "closing" of various counties.
- Many of the pranks, in fact, featured whoever was pulling the prank pretending to be a public official of some sort, trying to enforce some outrageous law or rule and seeing just how people would react. These have included trying to fine people for walking too fast and telling them that they have to sort their recycling into six different bins.
- In The City Hunter, the hero's sidekick Shik Jong barges into the conference hall control room and starts ordering the staff around. They follow the orders for quite a while before someone notices his ID is fake.
- An episode of The Closer centered around finding a man who had interfered with a murder investigation by pretending to be the lead detective in charge of collecting evidence and interviewing suspects. Notably, he not only fooled the suspects, he initially fooled the other cops, including the assistant chief. It helped that he believed he was a cop.
- Especially funny in this case as the man identified himself as "Detective Richard Tracy".
Johnson: Do you mean to tell me you gave all the evidence over to a Detective DICK Tracy?
[both detectives have an Oh, Crap! expression]
- Especially funny in this case as the man identified himself as "Detective Richard Tracy".
- Jeff Winger on Community uses this frequently. The plot of the series is kicked off when he creates a study group by convincing his classmates that he is a "board-certified Spanish tutor". That's nothing compared to what he was doing before the series began. Namely, successfully pretending to be a board-certified lawyer for years.
- One episode of CSI had the team brushing up against an FBI team investigating a possible human trafficking ring after one of their agents was murdered in the field. It eventually turns out that the "FBI agents" are actually mental patients united by a shared, Don Quixote-like delusion (but their actions do lead to breaking up a trafficking ring).
- Zoey Woodbine (Alicia Witt) on Cybill was good at these. In a similar instance to the above Catch Me If You Can example, she once passed as a teacher at her own school, and even received a paycheck.
- In an episode of The District, a rapist working at a shop that repaired Metro Police cars used access to official cars and a police uniform to get close enough to intended victims to capture them for the assault. This didn't do any favors for the real MPD (particularly one officer who bore a superficial resemblance to witness descriptions of their attacker) when news stories about the rapist mentioned his MO. Sergeant Brander even wound up being shot by a panicking motorist stopped for a traffic violation, though he was wearing a bulletproof vest under his uniform shirt at the time, so he wasn't harmed.
- Happens a lot in Doctor Who, partly because of narrative necessity, partly because the Doctor seems commanding and often knows what to do. In fact, the Doctor can be said to be a grand master of the fire drill.
- In "The Reign of Terror", the Doctor uses the uniform of a French official to gain access to the jail where his companions are held, order around the jailor and bluff his way into a meeting with Robespierre.
- Used in "The War Games" to get into a military prison. One of the most impressive uses in the series — the Doctor has been convicted of espionage in wartime and has escaped from prison. He is not in uniform, or even a proper suit, and he has a gaping HOLE in the knee of his trousers, and yet he managed to bluff the prison commander for a solid chunk of time just by knowing what to say and shouting loudly.
- In "Silver Nemesis", the TARDIS arrives in the present day on the grounds of a castle and the Doctor approaches the little old lady he sees confidently, telling Ace, "Act like we own the place... always works. We own the place." Ace has to point out that the woman they're approaching really does own the place — and the place is Windsor Castle.
- In "The Curse of Fenric", the Doctor types out his own letter of authorization and forges the signatures of the head of the secret service and the Prime Minister (at the same time, no less, with a pen in each hand) in front of the person he's bluffing, and then hands them to him. They are accepted without question.
- This trope seems less convincing in the security-paranoid 21st century, so the Revival Series saw the introduction of an Applied Phlebotinum known as psychic paper, which the reader sees as whatever form of credentials they think the Doctor needs... unless the viewer happens to be psychic enough to see through the illusion, like everyone working for Torchwood, or intelligent enough, like William Shakespeare. Also, lies too big will break it, as seen in "A Christmas Carol", when it refuses to say he's "widely acknowledged as a mature and responsible adult". Furthermore, it appears it needs the target to have some semblance of imagination, as it failed on the grumpy old work supervisor. You don't want to be Distracted by the Sexy either.
Rose: This is psychic paper. It says whatever you want it to.
Jack: How'd you know?
Rose: Well, first, I have a friend who uses this all the time. Second, you just handed me a piece of paper that says you're single and work out.
- In "Aliens of London", he gets out of being held at gunpoint by a room full of armed soldiers by using this — when a scream sounds from another room he yells, "Defence plan Delta! Come on!" and runs out of the room, and they all instinctively follow his orders, even though he's presented no identification at all. Of course, we later learn they're UNIT soldiers, so presumably he learned the correct code during his time working for them.
- In "The Shakespeare Code", he tells Martha something similar to allay her concerns about walking around Elizabethan London: "Just walk around like you own the place, always works for me."
- Inverted in "Midnight". The Doctor does his usual thing, bluffing his way into the cabin and generally making it clear that he knows what he's doing... which leads the passengers to suspect he has something to do with the alien. The more he tries to take control of the situation, the more suspicious of him everyone becomes.
- Companions on occasion have been known to engage in this, with Clara Oswald bluffing her way through commanding a group of soldiers in "Nightmare in Silver" and later squaring off against several Cybermen by fire-drilling her way through an impersonation of the Doctor himself.
- On Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Chloe takes over the offices of People magazine by barging in, saying she's the new supervising editor, and acting intimidating.
- Simon does this twice: once when he "impersonates" a doctor (he really is a doctor, but not at that hospital) in "Ariel" (he even catches a rookie doctor's mistake and intervenes to save the patient's life), and in the movie when he disguises himself as an imperious Obstructive Bureaucrat to get into the Academy.
- Subverted in the same episode as the rest of the crew prepares to perform a BFD to gain entrance to a hospital: getting paramedic uniforms, ID cards, learning the terminology, etc...only to be let in without so much as a second glance. To make matters even funnier, Jayne, determined to put his effort in learning a script to use, recites a sentence of medical jargon no one asked for. The security guards' expressions are priceless.
- Earlier, in "Jaynestown", Simon is forced into this role by Mal because he looks like a respectable person with a lot of money to spend at the mud farm. He doesn't do very well, but the foreman isn't bright enough to be suspicious.
Simon: Savings. Excellent, that's — because as I said before, I'll be needing quite a bit of it... I—I'm a buyer.
Wash: What happened to Simon? Who is this diabolical master of disguise?
- Played straight and then subverted in an episode of Frasier. Daphne learns that one of Niles's female patients, Heather, has fallen in love with him, so she and Roz go to Heather's office to see what they can find out about her. Roz fools Heather's assistant by claiming to be from corporate, but then pushes her luck by trying the same tactic on Heather.
Heather: [suspiciously] How could you have "flown in" from corporate? Corporate's downstairs.
- In an episode of Friends, Phoebe gets ahold of a police badge and starts flashing it around at people for the lulz (she explains her lack of an uniform to go with the badge as her being an undercover cop). At the end of the episode, the owner of the badge turns up... and they end up going out on a date.
- In an episode of Get Smart, Max managed to order soldiers about to execute him to turn around just before their boss (who was standing right behind them) orders them to fire. The reason? They were Ruritanian soldiers, and Ruritanian soldiers are always more-or-less brainwashed into "obeying orders" without thinking.
- The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Subverted in the third-season episode "Game Plan". Joe pretends to be a hotel maintenance man to get into a room where Frank and the Big Bad are talking. Joe puts on a phony redneck accent, pushes right into the room past Frank and shoves his cap into Frank's hands (the cap containing a note warning Frank of a federal raid) and proceeds to completely confuse the Big Bad with pseudo-technical-babble about the AC being on the fritz (taking the thermostat apart with his screwdriver as he does so)...until Frank blows it out of the water by showing the Big Bad the note, then pulling a gun on Joe. The federal agents eventually find Joe tied up and gagged in the apartment's closet.
- Heroes: Sylar (a wanted Serial Killer) in the Volume 3 episode "One of Us, One of Them". He fakes being an FBI agent and gets the cops to (1) pull back their barricades, giving him and Bennet room to work, and (2) get him some coffee. Made even more audacious in that he uses the name "Andrew Hanson" as his cover, a reference to Audrey Hanson, the real FBI agent who was in charge of tracking him down during the first season.
- Hogan's Heroes ran on this trope.
- Homicide Hunter. When Joe Kenda arrives at the hospital to speak with a victim, the doctor tells him that he can't, as she's resting. As Kenda is leaving, a nurse idly greets him as "Doctor". He realizes that as longs as he acts as if he belongs there, no one will question him. With this, he finds his way to the victim's room. At this point, his tactic backfires spectacularly when the young woman wakes up screaming in pain from her injuries and the responding nurses assume he's done something to her.
- In the Season 1 finale of House of Cards (US), Lucas Goodwin manages to find out Rachel Posner's location from another D.C. prostitute by convincing her that he's an undercover vice detective. He plays "John" long enough to get her to offer him sex for money, then threatens to arrest her for prostitution if she doesn't tell him what he wants to know. He doesn't even have to show any credentials, as he also convinces her that he can't publicly show his badge unless he's making an arrest; because he shows up with a copy of Rachel's mugshot, though, the woman assumes that he has to be the real deal.
- The guys on Hustle do so. Usually Ash.
- Likewise, spin-off The Real Hustle uses this, most notably to steal someone's car--as he's getting into it.
- This is almost becoming a Discredited Trope in the UK: thanks to that show, and the fact that the real police are also perfectly willing to engage in this sort of activity if they find it useful, most younger British people lack much of a sense of social compliance.
- No longer a Discredited Trope here in the United Kingdom now; documentaries show it being used too, so Hustle no longer seems to hold any influence for this. Probably because of The Mentalist it's now more popular.
- iCarly: Spencer pulls this off to get to the vault containing the severed head of a company's founder.
- I Love Lucy uses this as Lucy's main schtick. Despite her husband Ricky's attempts to keep her out of his nightclub shows, she always turns up in some costume or another (or intercepts a performer's call to dismiss her) and there are apparently no attempts to verify her identity or prevent her from performing.
- One episode of The Kicks features the team trying to steal a prized jersey from their rival team at the tail end of an escalating prank war. They infiltrate the rival school by having Mirabelle wear one of the school's uniforms and pretending to be a tour guide. Even though Mirabelle isn't a Pinewood student, no one questions the uniform. In order to keep away witnesses, they put up a couple of "Maintenance in Progress" signs in front of the area, counting on the Pinewood students to obey without question, given that they attend school in a strict, regimented environment. It works... almost. One student ignores the sign and catches them in the act.
- Ripped from the Headlines for the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Authority".
- Which ended up being surreal, as the target of the investigation railed against people following orders without question...and then proceeded to order people around without being questioned by those he was ordering. He went from being against the sheep mentality to being the shepherd.
- An episode dealing with two missing girls leads them to a man who faked being from Social Services just taking the girls from their guardians. Neither one questioned who he really was. The first was a crackhead mother, so it's plausible that she could be fooled by such a ploy, but the second girl was taken from an experienced foster mom who should have known better.
- Done all the time in Leverage, often by Hardison or Ford.
- In "The Mile High Job" Hardison pulled off a slew of these right in a row. First, he gets into the company they are targetting by pretending to be a janitor. In the elevator, he pulls off the scrubs to reveal his suit, to look like everyone else. After getting a lay of the land, he befriended a fellow World of Warcraft player, called the corrupt CEO to a meeting the CEO had no knowledge of, convinced his co-workers it is his birthday, so they throw a party, and covered his leaving early by yelling about him being fired, and in his hands was the evidence to take down said CEO.
- In "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" he is caught on an army base. After staying in character, he gets Elliot to send him data on his interrogator and proceeds to own their next conversation by calling up data that unnerves the skilled interrogator.
- Penne from Life Support advised viewers wanting to avoid lines for concert tickets to wear fake Ticketek shirts and tell everyone the tour was cancelled.
- The Mentalist:
- This is one of the favorite manipulation methods of Patrick Jane. When trespassing, he easily convinced the police that he was the homeowner and that the homeowner was the trespasser, or at least had them seriously confused.
- Another example was being trapped in a room with a known killer. He holds his cell phone like a gun and talks just like a law enforcement officer holding a gun, confusing the killer enough that he's able to get the door open and let the people actually holding guns enter.
- In the old Mission: Impossible, the IMF regularly pretended to be part of the organization they were infiltrating.
- A skit from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Screaming Skull" has Pearl, Bobo, and Observer putting on penguin costumes and using these tactics to try and trick Mike and the bots into dressing in a similar fashion. After laughing at Mike and the bots' pathetic attempts at costumes, Pearl, Bobo, and Observer come to the sad realization that they themselves are even more pathetic thanks to the massive amount of effort they put into their lame joke.
- "Jack of All Trades" from the fifth season of NUMB3RS features a criminal who is basically a master of this. He can fake his way into any job simply by turning up the charm. When he's finally captured for the first time, he escapes from jail by pretending to be an attorney.
- The Office (US):
- Pam bluffs her way to getting promoted to office administrator by claiming the paperwork got lost and taking advantage of the fact that most of the office's committees consist of one person each, all of which are good friends with her.
- Nellie does the same thing in Season Eight, sitting down at Andy's desk and getting his manager job by asserting it is now hers.
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Conklin places himself in charge practically everywhere he goes. This is in spite of the fact that his authority as principal is really only good at Madison High School. The "Thanksgiving Show" is a good example. Mr. Conklin arrives at Mrs. Davis' house and quickly puts himself in command, ordering about the others in the setup of the dining room table.
- Used by Dominic Hargan in his intro scene in Power Rangers Jungle Fury. His cover is blown by appearance of an old friend, who happens to run the place.
- Inverted on Primeval, when Danny (then just a cop) starts helping the team fight dinosaurs. They all know he's not a member of the team, but he doesn't seem to know it. Eventually, they give up and put him on the roster.
- Shawn has a tendency to do this, partly because his "psychic" abilities (read: keen observational skills and theatrical nature) tend to throw people off their guard and result in them buying anything he'll tell them, and partly because he's The Charmer who can twist almost anyone around his little finger. The few times it hasn't worked (it's not foolproof), Shawn has literally been struck dumb.
- One particularly audacious example had Shawn pretending to be a chief resident doctor doing rounds with interns in order to figure out what was wrong with a comatose patient. When he couldn't understand their medical terminology, he told them to dumb it down for the comatose patients, and they did.
- Or the time he managed to convince multiple people at a comic convention that he was George Takei's personal assistant. Including George Takei himself.
"The blueberries are still wrong. I requested North Carolina blueberries but they sent me Michigan blueberries."
- This is basically the entire plot of The Riches. A family of travelers find a rich couple dying in a car accident (because some of their enemies ran the couple off the road), and decide to steal their identities. The rich husband was a lawyer, while the traveler husband only has experience in the law in avoiding it. But he manages to fool everyone at his new job. In one particularly memorable instance, he gets himself a position as guest speaker at a local law college. He brings in a big bag of mini-cookies, tells them "I know nothing about law," and starts asking them questions, giving them cookies when they give him answers that sound good. He coasts through the rest of the first season on the knowledge gained from that class.
- Happens more or less Once per Episode in the BBC version of Robin Hood, yet no one ever catches on.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina turns a classmate invisible to help with his magic act, but then loses track of him. Upon realizing that the first place that an invisible teenage boy would go is the girls' locker room, Sabrina runs into the room and yells to all of the girls to keep their clothes on; there's a gas leak and everyone must evacuate. The girls all leave without question.
- In one episode of Scrubs, J.D. dons a lab coat to look more "official". The Janitor decides to wear one as well, just to mess with him. When the Janitor sits with J.D. in the cafeteria, a woman comes up to ask a question. The Janitor explains that the janitors at Sacred Heart wear lab coats as well, leading to the woman complimenting both the Janitor and J.D. on the great job they do.
Seinfeld: He's not fooling anyone.
- Parodied with Kramer's alter ego, Dr. Von Nostrand.
- But another time Kramer ended up with a "job" at Brant/Leland, taking meetings and writing reports, even though he didn't get paid. Eventually they had to "fire" him for incompetence.
Leland: I'm sorry. There's just no way that we could keep you on.
Kramer: I don't even really work here!
Leland: That's what makes this so difficult.
- In another episode, George wasn't sure whether he was hired at a firm or not, so he just went in while the boss was out of town and pretended to work on the Pensky file in an empty office.
- Hilariously subverted in at least two episodes of Seinfeld by Kramer. In one episode, he wanders into a law firm's building to use the bathroom and ends up getting swept into a meeting. Everyone assumes he works there, and he ends up doing just that for several days before being called into a meeting where he gets "fired" for his shoddy performance. Also happens when he gets a job as a seat filler at the Tony Awards, where he inadvertently ends up getting caught in the crowd heading to the stage to accept an award, resulting in him attending several showbiz parties while brandishing an unearned Tony award. In neither case was he trying to get his own way or manipulate people, he was the one just going with the flow, which is exactly the sort of behavior required by others for the trope to work.
- Often used by Frank Parker in 7Days, even when his status as an actual NSA agent could get him whatever he wants.
- Sherlock is prone to these to get himself into places he isn't supposed to be, but the absolute apex has to be "The Hounds of Baskerville". Sherlock gets himself and John into a top-secret military base using Mycroft's government ID, but it's John who pulls rank on the Corporal and uses his military background to deflect the man's suspicion.
- Moriarty managed to pass as a taxi driver to drive Sherlock to a location and Sherlock doesn't notice until he gets out of the cab and attempts to pay the fare. "No Charge".
- The funniest example would be in "The Sign of Three", where Sherlock walks into a heavily-guarded location by only wearing the hat to a uniform and marching behind a line of soldiers. That place? Buckingham Palace's guard quarters.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Apparently people don't get any smarter about this in the future: a group of Genius Ditzes managed to order their way onto the station to see Bashir simply because one was dressed as an admiral. When questioned, the "admiral" would simply act irritable, snap "That's a stupid question!", and the cowed crew member would back off.
- In "The Search, Part II", a group of Jem'Hadar soldiers ambushes and tries to arrest Sisko and co. as they attempt to close the wormhole. Garak gets them out of it by pretending to be The Mole and then shooting the Jem'Hadar once they let their guard down.
- In "Paradise Lost", Sisko is investigating a conspiracy within Starfleet, and discovers that Red Squad is in some way connected. He gets the truth by pretending to be in on the conspiracy and grilling the head cadet on his "sloppy" work, causing the cadet to indignantly spell out the whole False Flag Operation as a matter of pride.
- Garak seems to like this tactic. Later on, he, Odo, Kira, and Damar with some other Cardassian resistance members play the same trick on some other Jem'Hadar. Odo (impersonating the Female Changeling) asks to 'inspect' a plasma rifle and Garak proceeds to 'test' it. It helps when the people you fool revere you as a God.
- The entire premise of Suits is that Mike, a genius college dropout, has successfully convinced the entirety of the New York business elite that he is a Harvard-educated lawyer with only his boss Harvey's word as a vouchsafe. In addition to this first deception, this is a trademark of Mike's. He gets information from a witness by implying that he works for the Department of Justice, he's gotten onto a booked tour of Harvard by pretending to work for the Dean's office, and he's crashed a party full of Harvard graduates, getting himself into the official Class of 2011 group photo, despite having never gone to the school. Deconstructed later, when, every time someone gets supicious and tries to dig deeper, Mike and the others have to scramble to fake some more evidence or divert attention. This eventually lands Mike in prison and puts the whole firm under review.
- Almost every episode of Supernatural involves the brothers posing as police, FBI, or even priests to gain access to evidence or question witnesses.
- Inverted in some of the early episodes where the brothers are unsuccessful at this, usually because people question their covers and it falls apart. For instance, in "Bloody Mary":
Police Officer: Hold it!
Dean: Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys. False alarm. I tripped the system.
Officer: Who are you?
Dean: I'm the boss's kid.
Officer: You're Mr. Yamashiro's kid?
- Played straight in "Hollywood Babylon", where Dean gets mistaken for a PA on a movie set and just goes with it. He originally does it just so he has unlimited access to check for EMF, but finds himself surprisingly good at it and enjoying it.
- In "Something Wicked", while passing as a CDC agent, Sam is initially worried that they will get caught because his most relevant ID identifies him as a "Bikini Inspector". The hospital receptionist pauses and directs them to their destination, at which point they go to the opposite floor.
- In "Sex and Violence", while posing as FBI agents, they run into an actual federal agent who starts questioning the validity of the brothers' identities and asks to talk to their superiors. Dean reluctantly hands him a number, the real agent calls it, and the audience assumes that their cover's blown...until we see that the number connects to Bobby, who poses as their boss (he has several phones, each listed as a high-ranking federal agent of various agencies), chews out the agent, and then turns around to finish making breakfast in his kitchen. Dean and Sam's skill at this trope is so ridiculous that it verges into Refuge in Audacity and Crazy-Prepared at times. It worked both ways: The "real fed" was actually the Monster of the Week, and Sam and Dean bought his act. Bobby is quick to call them on how a simple check would have exposed him as a fake.
- That ploy itself fell apart in one episode where they were working on a case in Bobby's home town, were questioned by the sheriff, gave her the number and she called it...and recognized Bobby's voice over the phone. Fortunately, the town's masquerade broke later that episode anyway.
- They are shameless. They once convinced a little girl that they were "teddy bear doctors" by showing her one of their many fake badges and waving it around so that she couldn't read it.
- Sam has fooled patients several times by posing as a hospital orderly/counselor/whatever simply by dressing the part. One of the reasons the writers favor this con is probably related to how Jared Padalecki looks ridiculously excellent in white scrubs.
- Apparently, Dean and John relied more on fake IDs. Sam favors "costumes" more (at least in the first season)—Dean complained about the cost of buying worker coveralls and cheap business suits. In later seasons (when Sam looked less like a kid) they're better able to convince people that they are government agents.
- The opening of the season-two episode "The Usual Suspects" contains a hilarious montage of some of their more brazen claims. And that's only in the first two seasons.
- The ploy broke down hilariously in the Season 8 episode "LARP and The Real Girl" where Sam and Dean attempt to infiltrate a group of people who were engaging in medieval role-play by impersonating FBI agents. Two players immediately called them out on it... because their IDs were out of date. They then assumed the brothers were members of an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT role-play group which met on a different day and told them what they wanted to know anyway. Later, when Dean really needs info, he admits he isn't a real agent... but he does have a real gun, so they better cooperate.
- Inverted in some of the early episodes where the brothers are unsuccessful at this, usually because people question their covers and it falls apart. For instance, in "Bloody Mary":
- Very second episode of Titus.
Erin: You guys know you're not allowed in the building anymore; how'd you get past security?
Titus: You walk in with confidence, nobody bothers you.
Dave: I wore a hat.
- In Trigger Happy TV, DomJoly frequently uses this to comic effect, pretending to be a traffic warden, scout, spy and park warden. More than once while standing in front of a ten foot high picture of himself reading "DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN".
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Titus's advice to Kimmy is that the key to making it in New York is to act like you belong. This method (and some French-sounding gibberish) gets the two of them a table at a fancy restaurant and, apparently, allowed Titus to briefly play Gordon on Sesame Street.
- Veronica Mars: Keith Mars got in serious trouble for doing this, since impersonating government officers is illegal. His daughter gets away with it on multiple occasions, however.
- In a flashback on The West Wing, it's revealed that this is how Donna started working for the Bartlet campaign: she walked into the campaign office and started answering phones. Josh was pretty quick in catching her, but he liked her spunk and so kept her as his assistant.
- In White Collar, this is Neal's modus operandi to the point that he uses it to walk right out of prison.
- In The Wire, drug dealer Proposition Joe gets information about the whereabouts of a police officer by calling the police station and asking about him. He changes his name several times during his phone call, all while doing his impersonation of a white person.
- On The X-Files, Mulder has real authority as an FBI agent. This, however, is a civilian office and cuts no ice at military installations where he wants to poke around. To get into these, he puts on an air of authoritative condescension and psychs out whoever's on guard duty.
- In Haven, Duke and Nathan are at one point sent back in time, well before either of them have been born. When a man who has important information is arrested, Nathan (a cop in the present) simply makes sure his badge is showing and goes into the station and walks him out. Anyone who saw him assumed he was simply on police business, and didn't question him. Done a again a few seconds later, when Nathan shows the man is guard tattoo (apparently a form of Trust Password) to get his cooperation.
- Bleak Expectations: During series 4 the main characters manage to get into one of Big Bad Mr. Benevolent's operations by dint of Pippa Bin pretending to be Mr. Benevolent himself, by dint of putting on a big cloak, and a pitch-perfect imitation of his voice. It works, and the guards allow her in, even after one notes that Mr. Benevolent looks amazingly like a woman in a big cloak today.
- This is how most cheating in Munchkin is accomplished. Simply do whatever the hell you want and act normal. The rules specify that you can cheat all you want and it's allowed as long as the other players don't catch you.
- This is explained in detail in the Shadowrun sourcebook, Cutting Aces, though it's referred to as the Bolivian Fire Drill there.
- In Guild Wars 2, if you selected the right storyline as an asura, a part has you trying to gain access to a laboratory. You are given the option to proclaim loudly that a bomb is going off, and therefore you must evacuate all personnel. Alternatively, you can warn the krewe about ear-reduction surgeons in the nearby area, to the same effect.
- In 7 Days a Skeptic, Dr. "Jonathan Somerset" is actually a completely different person; the main character posed as him to get onto a spaceship. Especially notable in that the main character is Malcolm Somerset, Jonathan Somerset's son, which means Malcolm managed to successfully pose as a man much older than himself, just by acting like he was supposed to be there.
- In the Ace Attorney series, specifically in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, you meet a man in a hospital who claims to be the hospital's director. The illusion falls apart very quickly, however, as it rapidly becomes apparent that he's just a lecherous mental patient who swiped the director's lab coat, looking for an excuse to gawk at/fondle female patients/nurses. He's not trying very hard, though; he even admits it to you at one point. Eight years later, in Apollo Justice, he's still at it.
- Team Fortress 2 has this as a game mechanic. Being a Spy consists entirely of pretending you're supposed to be there until you decide to shiv somebody. Consider this: spies carry around a device that shorts out Engineer buildings. When disguised as an Engineer, you can look as if you're carrying a wrench, even if you're ready to shoot somebody in the head. Most Engineers spend the better part of their time loitering around their sentries and dispensers whacking them furiously with their wrench, even when nothing is happening. Unfortunately, a Spy can't pretend to swing his wrench without losing his disguise. So the end result is that most Engineers are wise enough by now to just Spy-check anyone near their stuff.
- An exaggerated example is when a disguised Spy charges up to an enemy medic shouting for healing. Many medics will just start healing (or maybe even ubercharging you). There are even achievements for doing this.
- Another is disguising one's self as a Heavy and grabbing an enemy Medic, a few Soldiers and Demomen or whoever else, and lead a charge into your own base...only to have them get mowed down by sentries that they assumed weren't there as they weren't firing on you. Bonus points if the Medic blows his Ubercharge on you in the attempt.
- Example. Overlaps with Suspiciously Specific Denial.
- Example of a Spy leading an Ubercharge.
- Used by Francis in Left 4 Dead at various times, even though he doesn't really need to. "Most people will do anything if a cop tells them to."
- In the Sacrifice comic, he attempts to pass off the looting of a television by pretending to be a cop gathering evidence. To an actual cop.
Francis: ...and that's why I'm going to prison.
- In the Sacrifice comic, he attempts to pass off the looting of a television by pretending to be a cop gathering evidence. To an actual cop.
- Mass Effect 2:
- Thane's loyalty mission requires Shepard to sneak into a restricted area of the Citadel. When s/he gets caught, one of the Renegade interrupts has him/her start yelling about how there is a bomb in the area that's about to explode...and the guy believes him/her. Even Shepard laughs at how easily it worked.
- The other Renegade interrupt has Shepard knocking the guy out.
- The Paragon version has Shepard claiming that s/he's a health inspector on a surprise visit. The witness then quickly decides that it's not their problem.
- In Saints Row 2, you pull this, pretending to be a repairman in order to break into police HQ. It doesn't work out very well, though.
- It works out somewhat better in Saints Row: The Third, where you disguise yourself as one of the Nyte Blayde villains in order to kidnap Josh Birk (the actor who plays Nyte Blayde). The Boss, however, is quick to blow their cover once they're inside by punching Birk in the face, knocking him out.
Viola: Very subtle.Boss: I know, I just...really wanted to punch him.
- It works out somewhat better in Saints Row: The Third, where you disguise yourself as one of the Nyte Blayde villains in order to kidnap Josh Birk (the actor who plays Nyte Blayde). The Boss, however, is quick to blow their cover once they're inside by punching Birk in the face, knocking him out.
- This is one way of infiltrating several facilities in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
- Hitman, on occasion. Some levels, you don't need to get a disguise, because your suit already blends in enough.
- In Heavy Rain, playable character Scott Shelby really isn't a private detective investigating the killings. He is the killer, getting rid of evidence against him. In one ending, the charade falls apart when the woman he was romancing (the mother of one of his victims) called the other victims' families and realized none of them had hired him, contrary to his claims.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, you gain entry to Kaocho Palace by telling the guards that you're the Adepts the king was expecting. You are, though you didn't know that at the time.
- You also convince the Kaocho generals that the king sent you to help sack Ayuthay (he asked you to do so, but you refused); subverted when the people of Ayuthay overhear this discussion and are understandably upset when you get into their sanctuary.
- Adam can do this a couple times in Deus Ex: Human Revolution: first to a pair of non-security workers in the FEMA base, then to the guards in the Tai Yong Medical building. Both times you have to pick the right dialogues for it to work, otherwise they just attack you.
- Subverted in Papers, Please. Recurring visitor and smuggler Jorji initially tries to get into Arstotska simply by acting like he can just walk in. Theoretically, if the player is playing right, it won't work. Jorji will try again later with an ostentatiously fake passport, which has "ENTRY OK" pre-written in the visa stamp box. The player (if playing right) refuses to let him through, and the player character lampshades all this simply by pointing out that the country name on the passport doesn't existnote , instead of pointing out all the other glaring flaws.
- In Perfect Dark Zero's first mission, you literally trip the fire alarm to clear the nightclub of innocents. Later, to shut down enemy communications stealthily enter the Big Bad's palace, you use a voice changer to pass yourself off as a male guest or repairman. Pick the wrong dialogue, and your cover is blown. Don't forget to take out the Insecurity Camera at the front door before entering. You can pull a similar trick in the Laboratory Rescue mission to get the guards to stand down, but it doesn't work on all of them.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, during the "Diplomatic Immunity" quest, an Altmer Dragonborn wearing Hooded Thalmor Robes has the unique option to simply walk around the Thalmor Embassy unhindered, as well as ordering people to get out of their way when questioned. Almost everyone is scared enough of the Thalmor that they'll scurry to do whatever you say.
- In PROTOTYPE, the Patsy skill allows you to claim any member the military is you, and the other military in the room will gun that guy down on the spot. You can also call in airstrikes by consuming certain military officers, even if the target is a military base, but this has to be replenished by consuming more when you use it up.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this is a favorite tactic of the Smuggler class, who are able to charm and convince people of practically anything even if they're standing in a room filled with dead bodies.
Corso Riggs: One day you have to show me how you do that.
- When caught by Imperial guards wandering around a secret facility on Nar Shaddaa, the wise and diplomatic Jedi Consular suddenly affects an Imperial accent and begins to throw their weight around, acting like a stereotypical Sith Lord. This comes completely out of nowhere and, more surprisingly, works.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, one option for pulling off the "Bureau Raid" mission is an extended, literal version of this. The mission: Retrieve some incriminating computer files from the FIB's West Coast headquarters. The plan: Michael infiltrates the building in advance disguised as a janitor to plant firebombs in strategic locations, meets up with Franklin and two hired gunmen, sets off the bombs, then leads the entire crew back into the (now burning) building disguised as firefighters to retrieve the containment drive that all the FIB's important files get moved to in an emergency.
- The "subtle" approach for completing "The Big Score" involves Michael and Trevor disguising themselves as security guards to infiltrate the Union Depository vault and remove four tons of gold bullion right under the government's nose.
- Fitcher invokes this to save Riou in Greenhill in Suikoden II. When Riou and his party arrive in the town square and see Jowy leading a campaign to find Greenhill's mayor Theresa, Pilika rushes towards Jowy and the party is exposed to the Highland Army. Fitcher then shouts out to the masses that Riou is a wanted criminal and has a very high bounty on him, which triggers a riot and allows Riou and the others to escape while the Highland Army fends off the mob.
- Shadowrun Returns (in its core campaigns) offers several opportunities to pull these using the Etiquettes system, particularly the Corporate and Security etiquettes.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, teen mercenary Selphie and two of her companions set out to stop a Galbadian missile launch. With the correct player input, they accomplish this by disguising themselves as Galbadian soldiers, rolling up to the missile base in a stolen military vehicle, and trooping around following whatever orders they're handed until they're given free access to the base's power generator, the missile launchers, the missile guidance system, and finally the base's command room itself.
- One sidequest in Pillars of Eternity has the party infiltrate an evil aristocrat's keep. Entering the second floor from one direction lets them find priestly vestments for Dressing as the Enemy. When the high priest doesn't recognize them, a Player Character with sufficient Resolve can respond:
Player Character: What? I don't have time to entertain your lack of perception. Off with you!
High priest: I... I did not mean to offend. Please, continue with your duties.
Aloth: We were fortunate to get away with that once. I doubt we can count on such luck again.
- Players of Mechwarrior Online have noted that in a randomly matched team of players, if one player on the team assumes authority and sounds like he knows what he's doing, the other players will often fall in line and go with his plans, despite having no real reason to do so. It helps that most players have personally witnessed that working in teams almost always yields better results in this game.
- The Saboteur: Unlocking Tier III of the Sabotage perk allows Sean to walk into any Nazi fortification while in disguise and plant dynamite on anything, such as the base of a watchtower or the side of a flak cannon, for instance, in full view of the guards without alerting anyone (until the dynamite actually goes off of course), apparently as a result of this trope.
"I'm amazed at how often the phrase "Heinrich told me to do this" actually works."
- This SMBC strip.
- One Metroid comic had a sprite shooting a pillar for two or three comics, under the pretense that shooting is like holding a clipboard—everyone just assumes you're doing something productive.
- Referenced in this Chasing the Sunset strip.
- In PvP, Brent, after discovering that working at an Apple store won't get him a free iPhone, walks outside and tells everyone waiting in line on the opening day that they'll need to move a few feet back. After they do, he walks into the open space at the front of the line and quits his job so that he's first in line. This might have worked better if this plan hadn't required he then stand in front of several outraged customers until the store officially opened.
- WHEE-OOO! WHEE-OOO!
- A later storyline features a guy managing to successfully convince Brent and Cole that he was the Devil by telling them things he couldn't (or at least, shouldn't) be able to know about them, before revealing that the whole shenanigan was actually a sales pitch, trying to get Cole to hire not-the-Devil to improve their computer security.
- Sticks, a minor character in Goblins, pulled one of these during his backstory. Sticks is an orc who was imprisoned in Brassmoon, but managed to escape the prison with the help of another orc named Hawl and an ogre named Boulder. Coincidentally, their jailbreak coincides with a siege of Brassmoon by Greyblood orcs, and Sticks bluffs a guard into thinking he and his companions have been polymorphed so they can infiltrate the orc army.
- In Schlock Mercenary, Tagon's Toughs tried to do this while evacuating a building they needed to demolish. It didn't work—at first, until they got creative by either firing plasma weapons at the ceiling or telling people that the coffee guy's taking the day off tomorrow so he's closing ear
- Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick: Tarquin is so smart that he gives all soldiers a book so that they know how to avoid this.
- In Drowtales, a light elf tells a group of assassins to stop. He then explains to the people they were attacking that he doesn't have the authority, but they listen to him anyway because they're so used to following orders, while still in earshot of the assassins.
- In Freefall, when Florence goes missing in Ecosystems Unlimited:
- In The 10 Doctors, the Daleks mistake the Sixth Doctor for someone called "The Keeper", and he decides to play along. (It helps somewhat that the more-recognizable Fourth Doctor is along to deflect suspicions.) When a high-ranking Dalek demands that Six verify his claims, Six immediately accuses the Dalek of being a enemy Dalek spy with a quick paint job (helped by the fact that the Dalek's gold embossments look out of place, although they are legitimate) and demands that he verify his identity by explaining who "The Keeper" is supposed to be.
- Naps the phreaker from S.S.D.D used to tap celebrities' phone lines and sell the information to the press for a living. Much laternote , he wrote a lengthy passage about how a phone repairman's outfit made him invisible.
- In Godslave, Turner uses to fake a fire alarm and empty the museum before his fight with Edith.
- Fatebane's favorite tactic in Associated Space.
- Epic Tales has a story in which Shadow Hawk goes up to a cop, from behind so that the cop doesn't see him, and begins asking what's going on, in his most commanding voice. The cop answers his questions, and only after Shadow Hawk says that he can take care of the villain does the cop turn around to see who he's been giving information to.
- Attempted by Gaven in The Tale Of The Exile, who poses as a cook to avoid a manhunt. It backfires when a customer complains and all the other cooks put the blame on him, since he's the one nobody knows and thus is an easy scapegoat.
- The Bastard Operator from Hell has used this numerous times, often with very fatal results for his victims. He refers to it as "putting a (l)user in dummy mode".
- Tried writ large by General MacArthur's military junta in the Alternate History timeline Reds. It backfires spectacularly.
- During one of Spoony's Counter Monkey videos, he encourages players to try this out every once in a while (but not every time, as the DM will eventually get tired of it and have it not work) when having to infiltrate something, citing one time his character broke into an enemy stronghold through the front door using the "Bardic Knock Spell", a.k.a. just knocking on the door and killing whoever opens it.
- Blog of a Kind Psychiatrist describes a manic paranoid patient, who suffers yearly relapses, when he inspects police stations in search of corruption. He just walks inside early in the morning, briefly shows some ID, chides the policemen for some minor transgressions (garbage, untidy uniform, not looking brisk, etc.), says he was sent to inspect their patrols, and demands a car. Usually, policemen dare to demand closer inspection of his ID only several minutes later, sometimes after already finding him a car with a driver. He ends up in a mental hospital, of course. But, since he lives in a big city, there's still many stations where he isn't known.
- In Twig, Sylvester is able to convince the headmistress of the Mothmont preparatory school that Radham Academy is requesting that she institute a quarantine by leaving her an anonymous note in her (locked) office, signed in his own blood to lend it the requisite dash of melodrama.
- The Courier does this to break into the Solar Power facility by impersonating an NCR officer, shouting Drill Sergeant Nasty phrases at the door guard until she lets him in.
- Occurs in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Boiling Rock: Part II", when Sokka, dressed as a rookie prison guard, convinces an actual guard to release all of the prisoners into the yard...during a lockdown. Of course, he uses the Warden's "authority" as backup...
- Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade is really good at this.
- A particularly weird example on Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos. "I have to take your bike! It's an emergency—I'm Chuck Norris!" It works pretty damn well.
- In the Storm Hawks episode "A Little Trouble", Finn, disguised as a Cyclonian maintenance tech, evades capture when he accidentally steps on another tech's head by helping him with what he was working on. Then the squad is admonished by a passing supervisor for standing around when they should be working. No one ever notices until the Dark Ace recognizes their faces and points it out.
- This came as a surprise to the others, because, in a much straighter version of the "don enemy uniforms to infiltrate their base" strategy, they were trying not to be seen, and the uniforms were a flimsy backup in case they were spotted. It had never occurred to them that pretending to be maintenance techs might work.
- Done earlier in the episode "Gale Force Winds". Part of Aerrow's plan to save Dove from a Cyclonian prison was to have him and finn dress up as maintenance workers there to fix the boilers (which they themselves sabotaged earlier to give them cover to fly in undetected). Initially subverted when a pair of guards don't buy it, but played straight after Junko knocks them out, and he and Piper steal their uniforms.
- The Eds try to scam Johnny with one of these at the beginning of the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Urban Ed", disguising it as a game of Calvinball. It almost works:
Eddy: That's home plate, and here's the banana!
Eddy: Now put the quarter in the jar! Put in the jar, quick!!
Johnny: *beat* ...Nice try, Eddy.
- Used more successfully in an earlier episode where Edd manages to get Johnny out of his spot at the swimming hole simply by blowing a whistle, which makes Johnny leap up and do a swan dive, assuming he's trying out for swim team. Eddy calls it brilliant after the fact.
- The Mad Hatterbot in Futurama's insane robot asylum episode did this. Other characters do it too, but mostly without success.
- A more low-key example of this is how the Planet Express crew got into the Central Bureaucracy in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back."
- In one of the episodes of Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly and Muttley use a fire engine horn and the other racer's respect for authority to pass right by them to the front of the pack. Dastardly even calls it the "Old Phony Fire-Engine Routine".
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Of all the characters to pull this off, especially those with Force powers, C3P0 manages to get a pair of Battle Droids to stop guarding a room he was trying to get into by warning about an incoming Jedi and just continuing to walk on past them when they dash off. The same episode features Jar Jar Binks being mistaken for a Jedi because of his robe and he plays the role for all it's worth.
- Family Guy
- An episode combined this with Go Look at the Distraction. Peter and Lois get caught by police at a teenage drinking party ("Aren't you two a little old to be drinking illegally?"). Peter tells Lois to "Look over there!" and the cops to "Run!". The cops run away.
- Peter convinced a hotel desk clerk that he was Mel Gibson and just didn't look like himself because he had gained weight for an upcoming role.
- Quagmire also pulls this on Jillian, telling her that he was a boob inspector and she let him in the apartment because he had a warrant (actually a Snicker's wrapper).
- An episode of South Park spoofing 24 had various federal agencies busting into Kyle's room, taking over control of the situation, to where the first agency head would claim "I'm in command here!" the other would state "Not anymore you're not!" Towards the end, after becoming a running gag, Kyle arbitrarily says "Not anymore you're not!" to the last guy, prompting him to go "Aw, snap..." and walk away.
- On Phineas and Ferb, Mad Scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz once tried to take over the Tri-State Area by simply...going on the TV and announcing that he had taken over the Tri-State Area. The mayor (his brother) wasn't fooled, but the government agency charged with fighting him went into an absolute panic.
"Aren't you a little young to be [insert latest project here]?"...Alright, then."
- Phineas and Ferb's own techniques could be seen as a form of this: the boys don't consider their projects inappropriate for a pair of ten-ish-year-olds to do, and, since they act accordingly, adults just sort of assume there's nothing wrong with it either. (It probably helps that they also get building permits.)
- A sort of reverse Bavarian Fire Drill happened in one episode: Candace discovers that the boys have built a truck stop on the roof of the RV the family rented. In the middle of her "you guys are soooo busted" rant, she starts working at the diner without even really thinking about it, and makes it all the way through the song sequence before she realizes what she's doing. She BFD'd herself!
- Looney Tunes
- This is a key weapon in Bugs Bunny's arsenal. Notable examples include tricking the Sheriff of Nottingham into buying real estate on the Royal Rose Garden ("Rabbit Hood"), convincing Elmer that he needs a fricasseeing rabbit license to shoot him ("Duck, Rabbit, Duck!"), and restraining Marvin the Martian in a straitjacket by claiming that his spaceship has struck an iceberg and putting him in a "life jacket" ("Hasty Hare").
- Another master of the trope is Foghorn Leghorn, whose tactic is to not let his victims get a word in edgewise.
- In the Daffy Duck cartoon "Daffy Dilly", Daffy is a novelty salesman trying to get past the snooty butler of a sickly millionaire so he can cheer the millionaire up. Daffy eventually gets rid of the butler by accusing him of trying to off his boss in order to get his hands on the fortune. Daffy's hard-boiled police detective impression is so convincing, he intimidates the butler into skipping town: "Just to show I'm not all copper, I'll give you a ten-minute head start!"
- Subverted in G.I. Joe: Renegades, where Scarlet's attempts to use this to get Duke out of a local police station fail miserably.
- Bill uses this in King of the Hill when, after stealing a tank while drunk then attempting to return it to the base, he is pulled over by the cops. At this point, Bill's arm is in a cast, he's wearing nothing but his boxers, and he smells horrible. Using a full-on drill instructor voice, he commands them to get back in their car and pretend they never saw a thing. He even gets a date out of the female of the duo.
- On The Simpsons, Bart walked right into a TV studio.
Guard: Do you work here, little boy?Bart: Yeah!Guard: Well, then, go right in, sir!
- In "The Great Money Caper", Homer and Bart try grifting and are successful for a while until a man who says he is from the FBI arrests them for fraud. He actually has a Colgate Cavity Patrol badge, takes their bag of cash, and drives off.
- In "Trash of the Titans", Homer was able to get backstage into a U2 concert by carrying a sack and claiming to be the "Potato Man" with an Irish accent. The guards ask where he's been.
- In an episode of Rugrats, a pair of seemingly-legit regulatory officials audit a bank's security. In one of their characteristic adventures, the babies accidentally trip the silent alarm. It's only revealed when the cops show up that the duo are, in fact, notorious bank robbers.
- In the episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends where Wilt, Ed, Coco, and Bloo compete for a vacant room, the four friends challenge each other to complete various goofy tasks, a fast-running challenge that Bloo eventually moves to the kitchen, where Frankie takes advantage of the Calvinball-esque pace of the contest by just shouting at them to do several of her housekeeping chores competitively, in a manner following this trope.
- In Gravity Falls episode "A Tale of Two Stans," Stan's just-returned long lost brother Ford pulls this on the government agents swarming the Mystery Shack after wiping their memories by giving them a "very real report" about an undocumented meteor shower elsewhere and demanding all their data on the Pines case.
Ford: Well, what are you waiting for, a kiss on the cheek? GET OUTTA HERE BEFORE I HAVE YOUR BUTTS COURT-MARTIALED!
Agent Powers: (still disoriented) Uh, yes, sir. Apologies, sir. (whistles to call off the SWAT team)
- The Hair Bear Bunch disguise themselves as tree surgeons tending to an allegedly sick tree in "Ark Lark" as an attempt to escape the zoo. Bubi even diagnoses the tree with having "delirium tree-mens and aching acorns."
- The Dick Tracy cartoon "The Venetian Bind" has Sketch Paree and the Mole disguised as doctors tending to the wife of Venice's mayor in an attempt to steal the last statue in the city (they had stolen all the others).
- Pinky and the Brain has an inversion of this as a staple.
Guard/Secretary/Whoever: Aren't you a little small for <insert fake job here>?Guard: *beat* *begins laughing* Oh you social types crack me up every time! Go on in.
- In CPR and lifesaving classes, students are taught to use this for good, because individuals may be reluctant to assist in an emergency due to the bystander effect. For example, a rescuer should address a specific person (e.g. "you, the lady in the blue dress") when asking for someone to call for an ambulance, instead of a general request ("Would someone call an ambulance?").
- A related instruction given in self-defense courses is to never yell "Help!" because of the chance that some people will be less likely to respond if there is a threat of danger. Instead, when threatened, you should yell "Fire!", and/or flip a fire or car alarm, Don't Try This at Home unless it's life or death, because that will attract more people. (Within reason, obviously—if there are police/security guards within earshot, then "Help" is better because it's more likely to bring professional assistance, who aren't impeded by curious on-lookers. If there are so many people that yelling "Fire" may cause a dangerous panic, then, of course, you should yell "Help!" instead.)
- Depending on where you live, have a look at emergency instructions where you work and you're likely to find that you're actually supposed to accept this in emergency. Many such instructions state that until actual emergency personnel arrives, the evacuation etc. are coordinated by "the appointed personnel, managers, directors, or... the most composed and decisive person". Notice the last part. It often even doesn't require that person to be an employee. Basically, panic and chaos tend to be so destructive in emergencies that almost anyone in charge is better than noone, even if the only authority they hold is their ability to actually take control and look like they know what they are doing. Even if they don't, it's less likely to be fatal than letting panic grow.
- Frank Abagnale, the notorious con artist the book and film Catch Me If You Can are based on, used this to pull off many of his cons. In one instance, he purchased a security guard's uniform and stood at a bank's overnight depository, telling patrons who pulled up to make their deposits that the depository was broken but that he would be more than happy to secure their money. According to IMDb, they planned to include the same scam in the movie, but, during filming, people came up to Leonardo DiCaprio in costume and tried to give him their money.
- Germany was united in the 19th century by the Prussians, whose aristocracy was arguably the most militaristic in Europe. Their obsession with things military spread across the country. At one point, a con artist dressed in the uniform of a German army captain entered a good-sized town claiming to be an "inspector". In less than an hour, he ordered four grenadiers, a sergeant, and six other soldiers to follow him (of whom no one questioned his authority), ordered the local police to stop any phone calls to Berlin for the next hour, arrested the mayor and the treasurer for "suspicions of crooked bookkeeping", and confiscated the entire city treasury. The closest thing to "checking his credentials" was him giving a receipt for the confiscated treasury, using a fake name. Then he simply walked away, and was arrested 13 days later only because a former cell mate whom he told about his plans told this to the police. He was later pardoned by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who found it Actually Pretty Funny. There is at least one play and three movies made about this.
- A particularly heinous prank involving McDonald's, a master manipulator, and a telephone.
- In 1948, a Japanese male in uniform entered the Teikoku Imperial Bank and, using this trope, managed to get the entire bank staff to swallow poison. In unison. Detailed in the book Flowering of the Bamboo by William Triplett and is recounted by Tiger Tanaka to James Bond in the novel You Only Live Twice.
- On December 10, 1968, four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Bank were assigned to deliver approximately 300 million yen from their branch to the local Toshiba factory, to be used as cash bonus for the factory workers. A uniformed police officer on a motorcycle approached and stopped the cash transport vehicle, notifying them that their branch manager's house had been blown up and that there was a bomb threat against the cash transport as well. The four men exited the vehicle while the policeman crawled underneath the car to find the bomb. Seconds later, smoke billowed from under the vehicle, the policeman rolled back out, and shouted that it was about to blow. While the four men ran for cover, the "cop" jumped into the driver's seat and made off with the money. Neither the false policeman/thief nor the money has been definitively located. More on the Other Wiki.
- The Chaser's War on Everything and their controversial APEC stunt: they rented a limousine, stuck miniature Canadian flags on it, and marched clean through a AU $4,000,000 security perimeter. It may be found in all its glory here.
- To go into more detail: The stunt was approved by The ABC's lawyers because they assumed the fake motorcade would be stopped and turned around at the first checkpoint; none of the team could believe they got as far as they got. They had fake security passes that said "joke", "Insecurity", and "It's pretty obvious this isn't a real pass" and got within meters of the hotel where George W. Bush was staying. They were only caught when, realizing they were not going to be stopped by the police, they tried to turn around and Chas got out of the car dressed as Osama bin Laden. And, even then, they left Chas alone for a while and instead converged to arrest the one not dressed as bin Laden, as remarked on by The Chasers themselves.
- The bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe; Julian Morrow had done a number of pranks on a smaller scale and often managed to fool members of the public, but never the employees of whichever establishment or organization he claimed to work for.
- On 2 July 2000, 15 men dressed in senior officers' uniforms driving civilian jeeps painted up to look like military vehicles entered a Malaysian army base using this method. They apparently convinced the base armory personnel to hand over more than 100 assault rifles and grenade launchers to them and left before anyone realized something was wrong. See BBC News.
- Convicted hacker Kevin Mitnick used this as his primary criminal method. Among hackers and computer security professionals, this is called "social engineering".
- "I once had a fellow network geek challenge me to try to bring down his newly-installed network. He had just installed a powerful and expensive firewall router and was convinced that I couldn't get to a test server he added to his network just for me to try to access. After a few attempts to hack in over the Internet, I saw that I wasn't going to get anywhere that way. So I jumped in my car and drove to his office, having first outfitted myself in a techy-looking jumpsuit and an ancient ID badge I just happened to have in my sock drawer. I smiled sweetly at the receptionist and walked right by my friend's office (I noticed he was smugly monitoring incoming IP traffic using some neato packet-sniffing program) to his new server. I quickly pulled the wires out of the back of his precious server, picked it up, and walked out the door. The receptionist was too busy trying to figure out why her e-mail wasn't working to notice me as I whisked by her carrying the 65-pound server box."—From the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Michael Meyers.
- An Englishman named Derek Williams managed to impersonate Swedish football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, who at the time trained the Mexico national football team, fooling every manager, player, and member of the press he encountered. Nobody discovered the deception until the Mexican football federation themselves released a statement later in the day.
- Parodied by Ant and Dec in the video to their novelty World Cup tie-in single.
- Telstar Logistics can park anywhere, despite not existing beyond a vinyl logo on the side of a car and some T-shirts, stickers, and pens.
- Scott Adams said that he'd tell women he was interested in that he was an expert on handwriting analysis. He'd get them to write their name and ask them to write the things they liked about him. Once they were in the mindset of thinking appreciative things about him, some would include a phone number.
- Not the only time Adams has taken advantage of this tendency, either. Wearing only a toupée and a fake mustache as a disguise and peddled as a consultant by Logitech's co-founder, he got into a high-level meeting at the company and spouted a wide load of nonsense. Everyone nodded along and he succeeded in getting them to create a completely-meaningless mission statement before the hoax was revealed.
- Once he did this entirely involuntarily; he had to fill out some paperwork at the company he used to work for, and sat at his old desk to do so. Someone rushed in, dropped paperwork on the desk, said they needed it by five, and left.
- Phishing. By far the biggest reason why any online service tells you that representatives will never ask for your password.
- Working at a call-in help desk, you have to actively dissuade people from giving you everything from their password to their SSN. Telling them that you don't ask for security reasons only encourages them to offer it.
- This even happens with jobs where you call outward, like when a research company is contracted by a bank or an insurance company. Even with a blocked caller ID number (as is standard with companies using a dialer system to call outward), they still assume you're the right people just because you say you are and you have a professional tone and pacing (saying "Hello, my name is <blank> calling on behalf of <blank>, may I please speak with <blank>" works wonders), go along with pretty much any questions you have as long as you don't start questioning the questions, then start spilling information that you don't even ask for, like account numbers.
- Taxi dispatch works much the same way. One will often have to stop people mid-credit-card-number to tell them that looking up a taxicab doesn't work that way and that, even if it did, the dispatcher can't access that information, please do not give it to them!
- A story of a kid trying to do this with Steam on an online chat client (and winding up losing his own account) is recounted in this Slashdot article.
- Dave Barry and a few cartoonists once got into the 2000 Democratic National Convention by dressing up in dark suits with sunglasses and sticking phone cords in their ears to pretend they were the security detail for Richard Riordan, then-mayor of Los Angeles. (The mayor was in on it, but the convention's security detail and doormen were not.)
- The story of Pacific Tech's Graphing Calculator, in which a couple of ex-contractors managed to get Apple to release their software by pretending they still worked there. One of the best examples from the article: "[Greg] told his manager that he would start reporting to me. She didn't ask who I was and let him keep his office and badge. In turn, I told people that I was reporting to him. Since that left no managers in the loop, we had no meetings and could be extremely productive."
- Many of Joey Skaggs' greatest pranks are predicated on these. The best of these was The Solomon Project, where Skaggs (as Dr. Joseph Bonuso) got on CNN to shill a computer that could replace judges. Even better, though, was the fact that this was the fifth time Skaggs had snowed CNN this way.
- A somewhat-famous theft from the Hudson's Bay Company building in downtown Winnipeg involved two people walking in, taking a canoe, putting it over their heads as though they were simply moving the display, and walking straight out the door with it, never to be seen again.
- For that matter, a common burglary tactic is to dress up as employees of a moving company or simply have a logo-ed van and do the job in broad daylight.
- There was an instance where a group was able to steal the money from an ATM sitting in a fast food location. While it would take hours of work to break open the ATM, they simply walked in wearing unmarked blue coveralls, unplugged the ATM, and wheeled it out on a dolly to open at their leisure later. No one stopped them or were able to give a good description.
- A German news magazine tested this with an actor. He would stop cars while talking into a normal cellphone and claim to be a police officer needing the car for an ongoing chase, as his partner is already pursuing the criminal with their patrol car. Even more disturbing than the number of people immediately handing over their keys were the ones handing over the car after checking the ID. It was a cheap plastic card with the picture badly glued on it and the word "police" misspelled.
- Way, way too many cases of people hijacking a helicopter and simply flying into the prison yard to pick up allies. So many guards assume the helicopter is there officially.
- Zug.com's self-described "most ambitious prank in history" where the site's owners broke into the Super Bowl, conned security—including a Federal agent—into believing they were there on official business from PepsiCo, and placed an advertisement for their website into the middle of Prince's halftime show.
- It gets even better. They conned one whole side of the audience into doing it for them!
- According to many anecdotes, it was possible before around 1960 to gain a professorship at Harvard simply by finding an empty office, showing up at faculty meetings, and acting like you know what you're talking about. Discworld makes reference to this a few times when mentioning professors of the Unseen University.
- The incident where a socialite couple simply walked into President Obama's state dinner. They started a conversation with Vice President Biden and the Secret Service took the fall. Apparently, they did it to get noticed and to get their own reality program.
- Eric Idle has told how he used to "sneak" out of school as a teenager by just putting on his school cap and walking purposefully out the front gate, whereupon he'd go downtown and see a movie. He notes that as long as he looked like he didn't expect to be stopped, everyone assumed he was running an errand or something.
- Steven Spielberg must like this trope, as he used to spread "highly embellished" stories about how he'd gotten his start in Hollywood by walking onto the Universal Studios lot wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase and acting like he was supposed to be there. In some versions, he set up shop in an empty office, put his name on the building directory, told the switchboard operator to give out his extension to people, and wasn't discovered for two years.
- Gatecrashing the Obama White House had become something of a hobby of tourists. The Secret Service had admitted the wrong people no fewer than three times in a three month period.
- Quite creepy considering that Obama was getting three times more assassination threats than George W. Bush.
- While researching for his film In the Loop, director Armando Iannucci crashed the U.S. State Department offices by showing the guard a fake BBC press pass and saying "I'm here for the 12:30."He then walked around taking photos for the set designers.
- This clip is a recording of people's responses to a...slightly baited question that relied on two facts: first, that "Obama" and "Osama" sound a lot alike, and, second, that people are idiots. It wouldn't have worked today, of course, since the former is much less obscure.
- Jack Churchill. Using nothing more than this trope and a big-ass sword, he captured 42 men.
Jack Churchill: I maintain that, as long as you tell a German loudly and clearly what to do, if you are senior to him, he will cry "Jawohl!" and get on with it enthusiastically and efficiently, whatever the situation.
- The Germans were not always the victims of trickery in the Second World War. In August 1942, famed Brandenburger commando Adrian von Fölkersam was ordered to secure Maikop Oil fields intact. He and his unit liberated NKVD uniforms from POW's, captured Soviet trucks, and drove over the lines to Maikop. They ran into a group of deserting Soviet troops and frightened them into following them to the oilfields. Folkersam then handed the Soviets over to the local Red Army commander. The commander not only believed Fölkersam but, the next day, gave him a personal tour of the city's defenses. By August 8, the German spearheads were only 12 miles away and the Brandenburgers made their move. Using grenades to simulate an artillery attack, they knocked out the military communications center for the city. Fölkersam then went to the Russian defenders and told them that a withdrawal was taking place. Having seen Fölkersam with their commander and lacking any communications to rebut or confirm his statement, the Soviets began to evacuate Maikop. The German spearhead entered the city without a fight on August 9, 1942.
- Sergeant Bill came to Gerald, MO, to arrest meth dealers. He had made a bunch of arrests over a two-month period. The problem was that he was a security guard with no authority to arrest anybody. His claim to be involved with a "Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force" was lifted from Beverly Hills Cop II.
- A young woman once walked into the White House and asked to see John F. Kennedy. Since Kennedy had so many girlfriends, nobody even thought to check her for weapons until she was only a few rooms away from him. She had a knife in her purse.
- An old Urban Legend has a guard at a salt quarry check for mining equipment possibly being smuggled out in salt shipments. One particularly-skeezy guy was checked every day for 30 years. The guard and the guy built up a rapport, and, on the guard's final day, he asked the guy what he was smuggling out, because he knew he had to be smuggling something. The guy coolly replied, "salt."
- Another variation involves a man taking out a bunch of product in a wheelbarrow for years, only for the guards to determine that everything he had was surplus junk he was welcome to take. He was, of course, stealing wheelbarrows.
- Yet another variation describes a little boy carrying bags of sand over the US-Mexico border every day on a bicycle, then walking back every night. The customs officials naturally checked the bags of sand, and the boy made a killing off of the bikes.
- A (likely apocryphal) version of this story made it into Doonesbury from Desert Storm. It involved MPs thoroughly searching a tank to make sure the US crew wasn't smuggling loot or mementos out of Iraq. The police gave the tankers the all-clear, certifying there was nothing illegal in the tank—which was a Republican Guard T-72.
- This story may be very old indeed. A variation is also told of the Mullah Nasruddin—the Sufi Muslim trickster, who goes by the name Juha in Arab countries—involving donkeys carrying loads of hay across a border. Every day Nasruddin cheerfully admits to the border guard that he is "smuggling", but refuses to elaborate. The border guard never finds anything hidden in the hay. Years later, when both of them are retired, Nasruddin confesses to the guard that he was, of course, smuggling donkeys.
- In the beginning of 1941, iron junk was constantly delivered from Germany to the Soviet Union. The customs only paid attention to the metal, while, in reality, the Soviets wanted the oiled rag it was wrapped in—formerly used to clean German weapons (they wanted to know whether the Reich was switching to oil that can hold in the Russian winter).
- Referenced in Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles when Dundee suspects that the film Lethal Agent, being filmed at that time, is a cover-up for a smuggling operation. He has the frames of the painting used in the film as props tested for drugs, and, when the tests come back negative, mentions this tale. In the end, he's right—the paintings themselves are being smuggled.
- This even pops up in a Star Wars Expanded Universe with one bit on Han Solo in his smuggling days. He keeps taking ships past Imperial customs inspectors sure he's up to no good who are unable to find any contraband. Finally, it dawns on them that he's smuggling the ships, but, by then, it's too late.
- And in movies. In Contraband, the corrupt ship's captain searches the van Mark Wahlberg and his crew were using to transport forged banknotes and is ticked that all he finds is a used painter's dropcloth. The dropcloth is actually a Jackson Pollock painting the crew stole from a drug lord and is worth millions.
- Possibly a dig at the fact that Jackson Pollock's "art" is indistinguishable from a used dropcloth and is still somehow worth millions.
- Comedian Howie Mandel was expelled from his high school for impersonating a member of the school board and getting a construction company to make some additions at his school.
- In George Carlin's Class Clown routine, he described how he could mimic the priests of his Catholic school, doing one so well that he always wanted to sneak into the confessional booth before he got there and hear a few confessions, because he knew that "if anyone really thought I was Father Byrne and really wanted to be forgiven...and performed the penance I had prescribed...they would've been forgiven!"
- Do not try this at home, though, as impersonating a priest is a sin that incurs automatic excommunication.
- In October 2010, a dam in Hungary burst, spilling red toxic sludge across the countryside and laying waste to a village. One man whose house was spared happened to own a Ford Transit fire truck, which he loaded up with food and water to help the victims. He commented that getting through the check points was easy because the authorities assumed he was with the fire department.
- According to Banksy, the best way to make illegal street art is to go out in broad daylight wearing a Day-Glo vest, listening to a small transistor radio, and acting like you're supposed to be there. If anyone bothers you, just mutter something about how you aren't paid enough to put up with it.
- Wonderfully lampshaded by Tom Paxton in his song "I Don't Want a Bunny Wunny", in which he asks the audience to sing along, then to do it by themselves. With excellent timing he says "Isn't it amazing what people will do if you just ask them to? Now go and invade Poland!"
- In 1942, Kazimierz Piechowski and three other inmates escaped Auschwitz by managing to steal SS uniforms and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss's own staff car and driving towards the main gate. When they reached the gate, they became worried when it didn't open. Piechowski leaned out of the car far enough for the guards to see his rank insignia and began yelling at them to open the gate. The guards obeyed and the four men simply drove away.
- The story of Wernher von Braun's escape to the Allied lines has a similar event in it: while von Braun was in fact an SS colonel, he was moving his convoy on forged papers, and had to use his rank (the only time he did so in his time working for the German government, supposedly) to demand that they be allowed past a checkpoint.
- There is a story about Steve Jobs dropping out of Reed College after one semester. He continued to stay on campus, sleeping on his friend's floor, eating other students' leftovers (an institution at Reed dubbed "The Scrounge"), and auditing classes. However, it's highly likely that everyone knew what he was doing and no one cared.
- Reed's close cousin Evergreen is well known among students and alumni for being lax about non-students being on campus as well. Through the late 1990's at least, a new, unregistered, or just plain bizarre student (chicken suit, real-life Strawberry Shortcake, army uniform) could easily walk into many classrooms, sit down, and look like they belonged there, and many professors—if they even noticed—didn't bat an eye and went right on teaching. Sometimes for weeks. Whether this was because they thought the student really did belong there or because they just didn't bother kicking them out or questioning them is up for debate. Many dorms and other campus institutions had similar policies whereby a non-student could just walk in, give someone a line about forgetting their ID card, and get a free meal by looking like they belonged there. Possibly a campus-level case of Weirdness Censor or even a miniature City of Weirdos.
- Even at more buttoned-down institutions, most lectures work this way; so long as you're not disruptive, nobody will notice if you're enrolled or not. You could easily accumulate much of a college education by just showing up to lectures, doing required readings, and asking questions of the professors, many of whom do not know their students' names. You would not, of course, be able to get any feedback on assignments, or, more importantly, any credits toward a degree. This works best at a college where most classes are large enough for no one to notice, which is most of them.
- If you know when a film studies class is scheduled, you can even get away with seeing free movies.
- This is apparently something the singer Kesha made a habit of: simply walking into classrooms, listening (and participating) in lectures, and no one was the wiser.
- According to the article "The Nonstudent Left" (collected in The Great Shark Hunt), Hunter S. Thompson spent several years attending Columbia University in this manner. The focus of the article as a whole is the influence of un-enrolled students on the anti-authoritarian movements that sprung up on many college campuses during the sixties.
- There is an apocryphal story that goes something like this: there was a toll parking booth outside a city zoo where a nice old man worked tirelessly for years. One day, he stopped showing up for work, so the zoo informed the city council that they needed a new operative. The city council replied that they had assumed that he worked for the zoo. It was estimated that the man made off with at least several million.
- A reporter used this technique to get into the Bohemian Club. Reports of tight security turned out to be heavily exaggerated as, simply by wearing a business suit, he was not only able to get in but to ignore the only apparent security measure (a rule that everyone has to sign their name at the registry) without ever being questioned.
- The pacifist Bloomsbury Group, including writer-to-be Virginia Woolf, famously disguised themselves as Abyssinian princes and "inspected" the flagship of the Royal Navy, the HMS Dreadnought.
- One man found he could get into any club without standing in line or paying cover charge by claiming he was a DJ. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well on the bus.
- The infamous 1961 Caltech Rose Bowl Hoax involved students posing as reporters to find out how Washington cheerleaders were arranging their instruction cards.
- In 2004, Yale students managed to convince Harvard to spell out "We Suck" with cards during the middle of the Harvard-Yale football game; MIT did the same thing in 2009.
- And in 2013, Harvard students pranked them back by giving mocking tours of Yale to completely-unfazed tourists, simply by showing up in Yale paraphernalia and pretending to be an official student organization.
- Rearranging the orange cones in a parking lot into maze-like structures and watching frustrated drivers' reactions is not funny whatsoever.
- An entire mall parking garage in the Danish town Hillerød was "shut down" for several hours because a bunch of drunken teens had "blocked" every single entrance with that kind of cones during the night. The story goes that it took several hours with pissed-off drivers in a queue before someone cleared up the mess.
- It is possible for common people to pose as certain companies to supply a DMCA takedown for certain videos. This has happened with Nyan Cat (After which the real Prguitarman stated he was not responsible for the takedown) and several videos from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic from Habsro Inc. This, and other cases, have been used as examples of YouTube being too "cowardly" or some other adjective to check the claims for legitimacy. Checking the claims one by one would cost a good deal of time and money.
- In March 1986, eleven students from Harvey Mudd College showed up on the Caltech campus and left with a century-old, 1.7 ton cannon. In broad daylight. They posed as a construction crew and gave multiple different stories to any people who asked, but the real trick was planting people whose job was to look like normal students who didn't think anything was wrong. Twenty years later, MIT repeated the trick by posing as Howe & Ser Moving Company.
- There was a warning that there was a gang operating at Gatwick Airport. Wearing hi-viz jackets, they would approach people parking cars in the "car hire return" car park, inspect the cars, hand over a receipt, and...calmly drive away, since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the hire car companies involved.
- In his first book, Up Front, Bill Mauldin tells the story of an expatriate Austrian nobleman serving in the US Army who would sneak into blacked-out German command bunkers at night, and, in his well-educated accent, in his most arrogant tone of voice, demand to know the situation and plans.
- Filming Romanoff and Juliet in Rome during the 1960 Olympics, Peter Ustinov would bluff his and other company members' way into the Games by arriving in the Rolls-Royce flying the flag of the fictitious country in the film, fitted with fake diplomatic plates.
- This probably has something to do with the saying "confidence is your most attractive asset" or something along those lines when trying to get your love interest to notice you.
- As mentioned in the Eroica entry above, Claude François de Malet nearly took over the First French Empire this way: while Napoleon was in Russia Malet, a former general discharged and placed in a sanitarium for sedition walked to the commander of a National Guard cohort in Paris, told him that Napoleon had died in battle on October 7, and, using forged documents, took command of the cohort and started arresting the government. Of all the people he arrested (which included the Minister of Police himself), only general Pierre Hulin thought about checking his orders (he got shot in the jaw), and the coup was stopped only after colonel Doucet, who knew for a fact that Napoleon was still alive after October 7 and recognized Malet, managed to get alone with him, kick his ass, and tie him up before ordering his troops back to their barracks. When informed of the attempted coup, Napoleon had only one question: why did nobody think of shouting "The emperor is dead, long live the emperor!" (i.e., his son Napoleon II)?
- This is the whole basis of Durwood Fincher's shtick. He goes up to famous celebrities and athletes, or just average people on the street at major events, and pretends to be a reporter wanting to give them an interview. They comply and listen to his questions—only for him to spout off completely nonsensical gibberish. The interviewees are so convinced of his legitimacy (or at least too polite to verbally ponder otherwise) that they always give answers to whatever question they think he's asking.
- A significant minority of retail shoppers are apparently unable to tell whether or not a given person within a supermarket-type store is or is not an employee of said store. Even when the store has a very distinctive and visible uniform. Even when the alleged employee is pushing a trolley containing a large quantity of assorted goods and an infant in the baby-seat, and has additional young children clinging to each leg. The trope is invoked because being mistaken for an employee seems to happen more often to people who are, in fact, employees in other retail establishments, suggesting that the "aura of competence" that these people project is what the offending shoppers pick up on.
- Improv Everywhere exploited this in their Best Buy operation.
- In February 2011, someone calling himself "Paz" went straight into Paris Hilton's Birthday party, using a red wristband with the letter "P" on it. He got drunk, took pictures, and eventually walked out with her birthday cake by pretending to be part of the catering personnel. The cake was donated to a homeless shelter a few days later.
- This often happens with unscrupulous customers trying to get preferential treatment, or even free merchandise, by posing as the owner or a close friend or relative. As Not Always Right shows us, this can easily fail if the employee is on his/her toes or just happens to be the person they're claiming to be (or a close relative).
- Some particularly evil malware programs will claim to be legitimate security software. For example, rootkits and viruses posing as antiviruses. At least one Not Always Right story has the customer paying for an antivirus service that is actually a virus in disguise and adamant that the computer tech they're consulting about it is just lying that it's a fake antivirus program in order to sell them something (like, you know, a real antivirus program).
- There's an internet video of someone waking up an apparently-drunk guy, putting a banana in his mouth, and handing him a pillow and bedding while telling him to go in an urgent voice and gently pushing him into a closet. The guy goes into the closet willingly. When he hears people laughing, he comes out and immediately goes back to sleep.
- At one point, two men walked into the Macy's in NYC and brought a canoe all the way down to their car from the floor it was on without anyone suspecting that it hadn't been paid for. It wasn't until they went back for the paddles that they were caught.
- Private Eye's owner and longtime editor Peter Cook was a master of this trope. His finest hour was leading a raid on the Mirror offices at a time when Maxwell had tried to force the magazine off the newsstands (and succeeded with WH Smith, a large British newsagents chain). He and some cohorts, including current editor Ian Hislop, convinced the doorman and security at the Mirror offices that they were there to see Robert Maxwell. They used this to vandalize Maxwell's office, steal the master copy of a planned spoof Not Private Eye smear-job piece Maxwell had been producing (they had previously sent the journalists involved with the project a case of whisky, with predictable results), order a champagne lunch to be delivered at Maxwell's expense, and, finally, very drunk, phoning Maxwell personally in New York and saying "guess where we are".
- Put on a black t-shirt that says "Event Staff". Wear dark cargo pants (or khakis, depending on preference). Proceed to get into far more private events and off-limits areas than you should be able to.
- More than one commander in The Napoleonic Wars was fooled into abandoning vital positions or letting an enemy army slip away because someone from the other side told them that there was an armistice. One notable example is found in the 1805 campaign when Marshals Lannes and Murat took a crucial bridge (which was both heavily guarded and stuffed full of explosives) near Vienna by just crossing it on foot, in their dazzling full dress uniforms, telling the Austrians that an armistice had just been signed and the bridge was now supposed to be handed to the French. When one sensible NCO wanted to light the fuses anyway because there was no way these two Frenchmen were telling the truth, Lannes and Murat proceeded to humiliate all the Austrian officers present by asking if a mere NCO could now countermand a general's orders. The Austrian general in charge of the bridge was arrested and imprisoned for gross incompetence, but perhaps he felt vindicated knowing that Murat fell for the exact same trick a few days later, courtesy of the Russians.
- One technique used in Urban Exploration and other activities is to wear a hard hat and a fluorescent vest, a sort of Highly Conspicuous Uniform, perhaps combined with a Clipboard of Authority or a camera. Sure, people will notice you, but they'll assume you're supposed to be there because you've got the proper gear.
- The principle behind camouflage passports; official-looking passports from countries that kind of have a familiar ring to them but don't actually exist, like Spanish Guinea or Zanzibar. The idea is that being able to provide what looks like a passport might get you out of sticky international situations where, for example, being known as American or Israeli might get you beaten up or worse.
- In Russia, if one is dressed in a military-looking greatcoat and a serviceman's ushanka, it is wholly possible to get out of being arrested by looking angrily at the police, demanding to know what they are doing, and they saying you're going to their commander with it. On rare and lucky occasions, you might even get given vodka to buy your silence. But if you're unlucky, you're in a big trouble.
- April 10, 1940 was the day after the German invasion of Norway. This particular day was nicknamed "panic day" in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. For decades, Norwegians believed rumors that British bombers were about to attack that morning, and people panicked, packed their belongings and rushed out of town. That would be something like most of the population in that city. Only recently it was revealed that the whole incident was one gigantic example, a diversion to get a known German anti-fascist, Ernst Wollweber, out of town. The Norwegian communist faction actually hired a truck, drove it through town and yelled "The British are about to bomb!" In the imminent confusion, everybody believed this, and panicked. The communists succeeded in getting Wollweber to Sweden, and also in stirring up some 200.000 Oslo inhabitants. One of the greatest fire drills in the twentieth century.
- This thief marches into a Walmart wearing only a security officer's uniform, and manages to get away with 75,000 dollars by convincing employees he was with an armored truck company.
- A fairly common tactic - a thief in walked into a Detroit area Target store dressed in the black collared shirt and khaki pants of a Target Mobile employee, strolled into the back room and checked out the cell phone locker, walked back to the front of the store (exchanging greetings with an employee as he exited the backroom) and retrieved a pair of bolt cutters and a jacket from a vehicle parked outside, took a cart (bolt cutters under the jacket) back to the cell phone locker, cut the latch that secured it shut, and absconded with thousands of dollars worth of Android and iOS smartphones. No one noticed anything was amiss, not even the employee who saw him mid-scheme, until long after he was gone.
- Averted by the General Orders for Sentries in the US Military, which have been carefully designed to prevent Bavarian Fire Drills. For instance, the rules say that a senior officer cannot just walk up to a sentry and start issuing orders; the sentry must contact their immediate superior instead. And of course, all the officers know this, and the sentries know that they know, so anyone dressed in a General's uniform who orders a sentry to "come with me" is immediately suspect.
- Benjamin Franklin himself essentially employed this to ensure the American Revolution a good general to instruct them in how to fight. After meeting the Prussian captain Von Stueben in Paris, and concerned that Congress would not accept a "mere captain," Franklin "doctored" Von Stueben's resume to take along and show Washington a lengthy and impressive career as a former lieutenant general in the Prussian army.
- A prank caller dials up several fast food restaurants and convinces the employees there to smash out their restaurant's windows by pretending to be a fire department official who's been alerted to a dangerous gas leak at the restaurant that will result in an explosion if the building isn't depressurized by smashing out the windows.
- Legendary electric guitarist Les Paul was unable to get any record exectutives to sign him, until one day he was headed home from yet another unsucessful interview and saw workmen erecting a sign for the newly formed Capitol Records. Paul waited until they were distracted, then walked into the building backwards, figuring that if anyone stopped him, he'd say he was on his way out. He managed to make his way into the offices, and convinced an A&R man to listen to his recordings, upon which the man wrote out a contract on the spot.