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Tricked into Signing

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You've got an important document you need signed, but the mark will refuse if you tell them what it is. What to do?

You lie to them about what it is, or disguise it among more innocuous papers and hand it to them while they're busy and distracted.

If they're famous, handing it to them in the middle of a busy autograph-signing session will often work. If they're extremely famous (or just extremely vain), you might not even need the busy autograph-signing session: they'll automatically autograph anything put in front of them.

It should be noted that Common Law provides certain protections against being tricked when entering an agreement. Countries whose legal systems are based on common law, such as the USA, UK, and Canada, will generally carry over these same protections. It's usually safe to presume a common-law jurisdiction will not hold an individual to a contract if it can be proven that someone lied about the content of the contract, the signer lacked the ability to understand it (for example, if their grasp of the language the contract was written in is too weak to fully comprehend the contract), or if someone signed the contract under duress or when too rushed to have time to actually read it.

It's not uncommon to common law jurisdictions to provide further protections against malicious contracts. For instance, if a contract was clearly written in a manner to obfuscate part of the contract, such as via excessively small print that signer may not be held to that section. Similarly, if a section of a contract is so blatantly one-sided that it's clear the signer would not have agreed to it if they were aware of it that section may be excluded. So, for example, just because you slip a paragraph into your rental agreement saying the signer will give you all their worldly possessions and agrees to become your slave doesn't necessarily mean the courts will enforce it. Of course the exact laws and degree of protection offered vary between jurisdictions, so it's best to read any contract closely just in case.

Compare Read the Fine Print, where the person knows they are signing a contract, but does not or cannot read all of the clauses. Also compare Real Fake Wedding, where a person is tricked into a legally-binding marriage via a staged wedding ceremony made to look fake.


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  • There was an old series of advertisements for a mobile phone service where an American film star is tricked into autographing a document that basically agrees to make him a skanky woman's slave. "Get more minutes without signing your life away."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Area 88 begins with this. Satoru and Shin are out drinking to celebrate Shin getting his pilot's license. Satoru passes Shin a form to sign. Shin does and promptly passes out. The next day, he wakes up as a mercenary pilot for the country of Aslan, which is currently at war. Satoru uses Shin's "disappearance" to endear himself to the CEO of Yamato Air Lines (which both of them were supposed to be working for) and, more importantly, get into the CEO's daughter Ryoko's pants. Shin, meanwhile, is forced to fulfill the contract or else be shot as a deserter. This ultimately fails, as Satoru is not only such a horrible businessman and bully that he ends up in prison, but Shin is too good of a fighter pilot to get himself shot down as Satoru had hoped.
  • In KonoSuba, Kazuma encounters an innocent child in the middle of a town full of crazy lunatics who pester him to join the Axis cult (generally boils down to a scam). The child looks so innocent that she just doesn't know how to spell his name so she gives him a paper for him to write his name. To his horror, Kazuma realizes in time that the paper is actually a form to sign up for the Axis cult, which means the kid is just as loony as the rest of the townspeople. Kazuma then tears up the paper in despair.
    Kazuma: GOD DAMN IT!!!!
  • In Sabagebu!, the club president of the titular airsoft club catches Momoka the central heroine off-guard after a spurred-on match by asking her name, then calling it a pretty unusual one and then asking to write it down on this piece of paper, here you go. Too late to realize it was a club application form, Momoka is allowed a respite since to join she would have to hand the application in person. Then again, a not-quite-conscious person knocked out by a spiked melon bun, as it turns out, works.

    Comic Books 
  • In an Archie Comic, Reggie decides to write up a petition protesting litter on the beach. Archie is eager to be the first to sign it, so Reggie has him sign it with a nice, large signature before he's even drawn up the petition content. Evil-hearted Reggie then writes up a love note to an anonymous girl. With Archie's signature below it, the note is sure to unleash Betty and Veronica's wrath.
  • In one Jo, Zette and Jocko story, the two children are signing autographs after a heroic feat, when unbeknownst to them a prewritten confession saying they didn't do anything is given their signature.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: During Scrooge's darkest hour as a robber baron in Darkest Africa, he tricked the voodoo priest Foola Zoola into signing away his tribe's land to him for a pittance by disguising himself. Foola Zoola puts a curse on Scrooge in revenge, sending Bombie the Zombie after him.
  • In The Sensational She-Hulk #12, the villain uses the old "can I have your autograph?" trick to get Jen's signature on a release form allowing him to make a film of her life.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Kim Possible-fanfics by Flower princess11 (including the ones that are set in timelines of The Many Dates of Danny Fenton-series), Bonnie Rockwaller is stated to have dropped out college to marry Señor Senior Jr. (the son of Señor Senior Sr., whom Bonnie had hooked up with in the final season of the original series). However, the marriage didn't work outnote  and the couple ultimately got divorced—unfortunately, Bonnie had been tricked into signing a prenup that basically said that if she and SSJ were to ever get divorced, Bonnie wouldn't receive anything from the Seniors once the divorced was finalized (including money). So, after Bonnie and SSJ got divorced, Bonnie was ultimately left with nothing, and her life quickly went downhill from there.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse: In "Alicornundrum", Twilight Sparkle is rightly horrified to learn that her parents (and specifically her father Night Light) signed her off on an Arranged Marriage contract with Prince Blueblood. After she chews them out for this, they explain that Duke Blueblood invited Night Light to a celebratory party for Twilight's recent coronation, convinced him to try one alcoholic beverage after another, and pulled out the contract for him to sign only after he was smashed off his plot. Needless to say, Twilight is not amused with Duke Blueblood when she confronts him over this afterward, and neither is Princess Celestia herself, who reaches her Rage Breaking Point when a meeting with the Bluebloods and Twilight's family culminates in Duke Blueblood trying to take Twilight to court over the contract, calling him out on what's essentially contractual fraud, among all the other violations of numerous laws she passed that made the traditional arranged marriage impossible to pull off legally.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Black Rain: When the American cop Nick lands in Japan to hand the wanted man Sato over to the authorities, detectives come on the plane to take custody of Sato and present Nick an official-looking Japanese form to sign, claiming it's a document for the Americans to release Sato into the custody of Japanese police. He does so, and moments later the real detectives arrive. The first guys were Sato's men, and Nick later learns the form was actually an application for insurance. Sato's men brought it because they needed something that would appear at a glance to be some kind of official paperwork, which the American cops would be expecting, and knew that there was no way Nick would know what he was signing.
  • Cloud Atlas has a nurse ask Timothy Cavendish to sign what he thinks is a hotel contract. The next day, he finds out that he's actually been locked in a nursing home and the papers he signed were the legal documents allowing them to keep him locked up.
  • In Double Indemnity, Walter Neff sells Mr. Dietrichson car insurance, then tricks him into signing a life insurance contract under the pretence that he needs him to sign two copies of the car insurance contract.
  • In Ernest Goes to Camp, Krader tricks the owner of Camp Kikakee, Chief Saint Cloud, into signing ownership of the camp over to him so that he can bulldoze it down.
  • A less legal version in Heathers — JD has the whole student body sign what they think is a petition to get the band Big Fun to play at the pep rally. It's actually a suicide note to cover up JD's murderous plan to blow up the gymnasium as a mass suicide.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), the President of the Galaxy (the vain Zaphod Beeblebrox) signed the document authorizing the destruction of Earth while thinking he was giving an autograph.
  • In the live-action film adaptation of The Flintstones, Fred is given a superfluous executive position and asked to sign a bunch of bulky forms. Fred questions it at first, but he is bribed by his superior, Cliff Vandercave. Later, after the money changes Fred, he unwittingly signs requisition forms that authorize laying off his coworkers.
  • In Charlie Chaplin's satire A King in New York, an autograph request is used to trick King Shahdov into attending his hearing at the HUAC tribunal.
  • Early on in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi is on his way to reunite with his sister at a top-floor establishment in Macau and is accompanied by an attendant asking for his signature on what appears to be a sign-in form. As it turns out, said establishment is actually an underground fighting ring, the attendant is actually its ringmaster, and that form he signed was the fight registration contract, so now he's up for at least one showing.
  • Used in The Spanish Prisoner as part of a Frame-Up. The hero is rushed to sign a club membership form which turns out to be a request for political asylum from the Republic of Venezuela. It gives away the impression that he is about to skip the country with a fortune. And the police fall for it.
  • An autograph request is used to get Eddie Cantor to sign a contract in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943).
  • At the beginning of Thirteen Days, Kenneth O'Donnell just barely subverts this trope when his son attempts to get him to sign the latter's poor report card by pretending it's a permission slip for a school trip while Ken is hurrying through his morning routine so that he can leave to go to work at the White House. Ken manages to take a second look and realizes what it really is before berating his son for his poor grades. It's a foreshadowing of a key theme of the movie's main plot of needing to stop and look over all of the details of a situation when that situation is pressuring you into doing the standard routine which could lead to disaster, which becomes critical when the Cuban Missile Crisis sets in.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: The fact that the only thing anyone involved in a contract really needs to do is stamp it with their blood has been abused a few times:
    • One of the characters gets tricked into making a baby she cares for sign an enslavement contract that is presented as an adoption contract.
    • The protagonist herself ends up falling for this trope, this time because the contract doesn't even look like a contract.
  • The Berenstain Bears: The Big Chapter Book in the Freaky Funhouse has the villains commit contract fraud by giving Dr. Gert Grizzly four copies of a contract to sign; however, the first one, which is the only one she read, is a fake which falsely claims that eighty percent of the money they're raising will go to the hospital and twenty percent goes to the circus. The trope applies to the other three copies, which have things the other way around, and which Gert doesn't realize until late in the book. Happily, the fraud is ultimately exposed and the hospital gets its money.
  • In the fifth Captain Underpants book, George and Harold ask Mr. Krupp to sign a blank card for Ms. Ribble, claiming it'll be signed by her whole class. After he's signed, they turn it into a prank marriage proposal from him, which ends up Gone Horribly Right.
  • Attempted by Pennington, an Amoral Attorney who was misappropriating client funds, in Death on the Nile. Pennington and his partner note from the start that it's a long shot; the person whose signature they need is Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, who is known for being both cautious and sharp when it comes to business matters, and is unlikely to sign anything without double-checking it. They are gambling on the fact that with Linnet on her honeymoon she might be inclined to sign just to be done with them and go back to enjoying herself. It doesn't work.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the trio need a signed permission slip from a teacher in order to check out a book from the restricted section of the library. They pick the dumbest teacher Gilderoy Lockhart to get the signature from. While they do tell him the truth that it's for checking out a book, Lockhart clearly doesn't care enough to notice which book they're checking out and happily signs it as though it were yet another autograph (and Hermione tries to keep it as such).
  • In Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Cabal has one year to get 100 people to sell their souls to the Devil in order to get his own soul back and is shown tricking a miserly and greedy farmer into selling his soul by making the man think he's signing a land contract. The guy does question the reference to himself as the "Damnee", but Cabal tells him that it is antiquated legal jargon. It's noted in the text that some of the fine print in the contract indicates that signatures are valid/signees are damned even if they don't know what they are signing.
  • Attempted in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Unnatural Death. Mary Whittaker tries to trick her great-aunt Agatha Dawson into signing a will by burying it in a bunch of other papers than need a signature — and by having two of the housemaids ready to witness the signing of the will without Agatha realizing it. However, Agatha notices the will and refuses to sign it.
  • A spin-off book based on Revenge has Ava Winters happily married to the perfect guy who helps her with the vineyards that have been in her family for generations. He tells her of a great deal to expand the vineyards and she signs the papers for the loan needed. Too late, Ava discovers she actually gave him power of attorney to sell the vineyards to her family's long-time enemy and leave her nearly penniless. Even worse, it turns out their "marriage" was never legal in the first place and he was setting her up all this time. Needless to say, she wants payback and joins a "school" to teach her how to get it.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. The child king Tommen is a Puppet King for his mother, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Tommen does enjoy stamping the royal seal on the papers put in front of him, so this trope is used to depose Cersei.
  • Attempted in the Timothy Zahn novel The Manta's Gift. Unfortunately for the villain, the person they try this on (in order to implicate him in a fictitious rebellion against the government) is far too clever for them and makes them look like idiots: he signs it left-handed (so the signature doesn't match his handwriting) while wearing gloves (so his fingerprints and DNA aren't on the paper) using the name of a corporate mascot instead of himself. When they try to use the "signed" paper against him without having double-checked it, they're completely discredited.
  • Stacey Abrams's political thriller While Justice Sleeps is about a woman tricked into signing power of attorney naming herself to represent the Supreme Court justice she clerks for, shortly before he enters a coma. He told her it was a routine personnel document, knowing she wouldn't read it before signing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Adam-12, Reed and Malloy answer a call about a business dispute that's disturbing the peace and arrive at Honest John's Dealership, where a car dealer has tricked a customer who speaks very little English into signing a contract purchasing the car by passing it off as a waiver in case of an accident during the test drive. The dealer's secretary had placed the call, and after Reed and Malloy persuade the dealer to release Mr. Diaz from the contract Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs; they give the secretary a calling card for the detective bureau.
    Malloy: Ask for Lieutenant Jacobs in Bunco [Division]. He'll be interested in the way Moore does business.
  • The "Development Arrested" episode of Arrested Development had Maeby trying to get the family to sign away their life-rights for a movie she needed to make. Lucille needed them to sign a paper promising them money if they didn't sell their shares, so Maeby just puts those papers under hers and starts offering the family money to sign.
  • One episode of The Basil Brush Show has an American businessman trick Basil into signing over the show to him by asking him to autograph three seemingly-innocuous pieces of paper. Because Basil has therefore signed it "in triplicate"note , he's unable to prove that he didn't actually read it. He instead turns the tables by pulling the same trick on the businessman, having three of his friends ask the businessman for his autograph, thus getting him to give Basil his show back and sign over control of his own show in the process.
  • In Big Time Rush, James got conned with an autograph request from his self-proclaimed "biggest fan". Then Katie did it to him again at the end of the episode.
  • Blackadder Christmas Carol has Blackadder sentenced to death for not having a Christmas present. For a last request, he asks the Queen and Lord Melchett to sign a piece of paper, which turns out to be a death warrant Baldrick gave him earlier, with Melchett’s name on the “person being executed” line and the Queen’s on the authorisation line. The Queen is so impressed by his trick she decides to go ahead with the execution of Melchett and pardon Blackadder.
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: When discussing Lori Loughlin signing autographs outside her hearing Trevor proposes that the attorneys should approach her as fans looking for an autograph and then reveal she's signed a confession.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Every year Rob is coerced and/or corralled into directing and starring in the local PTA's annual fundraising show. After the show one year, which he stated would be absolutely the last time he'd do it, the president of the PTA asks for his autograph on her program to commemorate the show. He gives her the autograph, after which she announces that he'd just signed a contract to direct the next year's show.
  • Drake & Josh: In "Really Big Shrimp", Josh is tricked into signing away the creative rights to Drake's latest song. In a variation of this trope, the papers in the contract aren't disguised; Josh was given the titular shrimp which was so delicious, he wouldn't even bother to read them. When Drake finds out Josh signed the contract and therefore indirectly ruined the song his band worked so hard on, he angrily fires Josh as his manager.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will try this on Uncle Phil, sliding a receipt for a bad behaviour letter from his school in with some other paperwork. Uncle Phil was distracted by Will's fast talking, so Will got away with it... until Carlton blabbed about it.
  • Ghosts (US): A cult leader tricked Jay into signing a contract that would allow the cult to live at the manor. The contract was unenforceable, but getting rid of the cult legally would have taken months and expensive legal fees, so Sam lied about having sex with the leader to create a rift among the members, which convinced the leader he was better off leaving.
  • In the Gotham episode "Mad Gray Dawn", Eddie Nygma asks a policeman to sign a routine form at the scene of a bombing. He's actually signed a statement that he saw Jim kill Galavan, which Eddie later uses to frame Jim for the policeman's murder.
  • One time on Hogan's Heroes Kinch had pulled the "put a blank piece of paper in a big pile of papers to sign" trick on Col. Klink, so he just happens to have a blank paper with Klink's signature for the plot du jour.
  • In one episode of Home Improvement, in order for Brad to get a note from the principal signed without getting in trouble, Randy helps him by putting a fake permission slip over it. It nearly works as Tim is about to sign it, but Jill, who is familiar with the boys' tricks, stops him and discovers what it really is.
  • On Homicide: Life on the Street a courier who needs the detectives to sign for a package turns out to be a process server working with Georgia Rae Mahoney's lawsuit against the city.
  • In I, Claudius, Claudius is tricked by his freedmen into signing Messalina's death warrant. They shove a bunch of mostly innocuous papers at him while he's drunk, then tell the officer sent to carry out the order to "offer her the knife" in the hope that Messalina will commit suicide and they won't have to show Claudius the warrant when he sobers up.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "Gorgons Wood", Carla is signing copies of her new workout video and a woman with a small child asks if she could take a picture of her with her nephew on Carla's knee. Turns out that the "nephew" is a grown man. The whole thing is a distraction so she wouldn't notice that she is signing a contract allowing them to license "all forms of sexual erotica, however explicit, bearing my name, face or likeness".
  • LazyTown: In "Sports Day", Milford is tricked by Robbie into signing a contract that lets Robbie demolish the park to build a pillow factory.
  • Leverage episode "The Snow Job" has the heroes trick the mark into signing controlling interest of their family business by claiming it's a contract for a business deal. Another member of the family correctly pointed out that the contract would never hold up, but Nate also tricked the mark into moving his money off-shore, leaving him open to racketeering charges which left him with much bigger problems and in no position to challenge the contract
  • In the "Boys at Ranch" episode of Malcolm in the Middle, the kids trick Hal into signing a permission slip to allow them to ride ATVs by passing it off as a permission slip for playing ping-pong.
  • M*A*S*H
    • In the first three seasons, Henry Blake was often tricked into signing some kind of requisition, or pass, or anything for whatever Zany Scheme Hawkeye and Trapper had cooked up.
    • Radar apparently made a habit of having Col. Potter sign blank pieces of paper, which he could then use to submit routine letters or requests without bothering Potter about them. Unusually, Potter apparently knew what he was doing and didn't mind.
  • Mirai Sentai Timeranger and Power Rangers Time Force have this happen in their movie-making episode, wherein they face a Reality Warper, director-themed monster. What’s significant isn’t who signed it, but what was signed (the final page of said monster’s script, allowing the Rangers to do their own Revised Ending).
  • In the Marisa Berenson episode of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy plots to marry Kermit by casting him in a wedding skit and hiring a real priest. Her accomplice Scooter gets Kermit's signature on the marriage licence by telling him a sob story about a dear little old lady in the audience who wants his autograph for her sick grandson.
  • My Name Is Earl: The titular character is in the hospital, after having done a happy dance out in the street after winning $100,000 off a lotto scratcher and getting hit by a car. He's all doped up on morphine, and his wife comes to see him, accompanied by a mutual friend she'd been cheating on him with for years while holding a stack of papers. She tells Earl to sign next to the sticky yellow tabs, and in doing so, she divorces him and included a clause about him signing their trailer over to her. So he's left with no wife, no home to go back to, and no lotto ticket. He turns on the TV and sees Carson Daly talking about karma, and decides to make up for every bad thing he's done, in the hopes that maybe his luck will turn around.
  • The Office (US) "Stress Relief": Dwight resorts to increasingly desperate tactics to get people to sign a letter of recognition that he paid due apologies for pretending there was a fire in the office, such as pretending they need to sign the paper for a delivery or need to sign in to a party.
  • Only Fools and Horses has an episode where Del tricks a pub singer into signing a contract by making it look like he's asking for an autograph (he doesn't even have to lie that much either, he just lets the singer assume it's an autograph). Ironically, towards the end of the episode, it's the singer who threatens Del with the contract to get what he wants (i.e his pay).
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show: In a special animated segment where Oprah visits the Simpson family, Lisa gives her a piece of paper to write her autograph, but Oprah quickly realizes she's trying to get herself adopted by her. "It's nice and legal, I assure you."
  • Psych: In one season 6 episode, the vow of poverty that new members of a commune sign is really a "carefully worded document that gives [the commune's leader] power of attorney" over their money and property.
  • Reaper: In "My Brother's Reaper", Sam had to get a guy to sign the contract for his soul, so he slipped it in with a delivery receipt. Unfortunately for Sam, the guy knew what he was up to and signed it with an alias.
  • An episode of the sitcom Reba had Reba being fooled into signing excused absence slips by her daughter, who pretended she wanted her mother's autograph. The ruse wasn't discovered until a letter from the school arrived about how much school the daughter had been missing.
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes. In his meeting with Winston Churchill, Major Stirling is given blanket authority to wreak havoc behind German lines to protect a valuable convoy to Malta. All Stirling asks for is an autograph as a 'souvenir' from Churchill. Knowing full well what he's up to, Churchill even gets General Auchinleck to countersign Stirling's blank sheet of paper, despite his objections.
  • Turn has a variation. Capt. Ben Tallmadge needs to get a vital intelligence report sent to Gen. Washington but Gen. Scott refuses to forward it to headquarters because he does not trust the source. Ben creates a fake report that has little actual military value but which Scott will approve of and forward to Gen. Washington. He then places the real report as page three of the fake report, relying on the fact that Scott never reads the reports past the second page. Scott signs off on the fake report and adds the entire stack of papers to the official dispatches.
  • White Collar: In the "Vested Interest" episode, Neal needs to fool Peter into signing a form authorising FBI surveillance but Peter carefully reads anything before he signs it and counts the forms he has signed to check that one hasn't been slipped in. Neal secretly releases Mozzie's pet rat into the office so that everyone is distracted with the rat, Neal can swap out one of the forms Diana gave Peter for his.

  • Bleak Expectations: Pip Bin gets tricked by a money lender into signing a lease with grotesquely inflated interest, fluctuating wildly and randomly in the money lender's favour, via reverse psychology. As Pip was signing the form, the man instructed him to not sign a specific part. At which point Pip signed it.
  • In The Goon Show episode "The Policy", Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty ask Neddie to give them his autograph on a piece of paper that's actually a will leaving them all his money. When he asks why the piece of paper has "Will" written at the top, Grytpype-Thynne explains that that's its name.
  • In the original radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978):
    • The Frogstar Prisoner Relations Officer pretends he wants Zaphod's autograph to trick Zaphod into signing a release form agreeing to be shoved into the Total Perspective Vortex.
    • A cloning machine accident results in a large number of clones of a young woman named Lintilla. The company's clean-up plan involves an equally large number of attractive male clones and a set of "Agreements to Cease to Be" disguised as marriage certificates.

    Video Games 
  • In Day of the Tentacle there is a puzzle requiring Bernard to get Dr. Fred's signature on a contract that he refuses to sign because he's preoccupied with trying to think of a way to defeat Purple Tentacle. One of the four possible solutions involves tricking him by claiming it's the cancellation form for a record club.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, this was how Pelleas was tricked into signing a Blood Pact that turned him into the Begnion senate's puppet. He had trusted a friend of his when the man said it was a harmless document, but his friend was The Mole.
  • In the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game, you can get Hitler to autograph a travel pass that will get you past all the Nazi-controlled checkpoints later on.
  • Khimera: Destroy All Monster Girls: How Chelshia gets the Fairy Queen's Autograph:
    Fairy Queen: O-oh! What's that pad for?
    Chelshia: I need you to sign it.
    Fairy Queen: Oh? How come?
    Chelshia: Delivery. Uh... Magic... [pause] Fairy... [pause] Dust... Delivery.
    Fairy Queen: I was wondering when that would arrive! Just leave it by the door.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV features a rather complicated example with a couple of minor noble NPCs, one of whom tries to scam the other by getting them to sign one thing, but using carbon paper to copy the signature so instead they're signing actually signing a document that basically signs away everything they have to the other person. Ultimately, the whole scam is rendered moot thanks to a clumsy maid who spills tea over the documents, both revealing the deception and rendering the signature illegible.
  • At the very beginning of Mystery Case Files: Black Crown, the Master Detective is asked by a doctor to sign some administrative papers to allow her to see one of his patients, which she does. She should have read it, as the doctor was in cahoots with the Big Bad, the ghostly pirate Phineas Crown, and the paper was in fact a contract binding her to join the latter's crew.
  • This is a puzzle solution in Return to Monkey Island. Putra wants an official promotion from cook to chef, but LeChuck refuses to sign her form. Meanwhile, Iron Rose hands a disguised Guybrush a stack of papers for LeChuck to sign. All you have to do is slip Putra's promotion request in with Iron Rose's papers before handing them off.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice has this happen to Trucy in the 2nd case. A TV producer asks Trucy to sign a contract for her magic show to be televised on his network and she does so. Later on, the same producer starts demanding several million dollars in compensation because Trucy's show ended in disaster due to her being accused of murdering someone on stage and that she's responsible for it due to her signing the contract with those clauses. Apollo doesn't buy it because he knows Trucy would never sign such a contract. And he is right; the contract Trucy signed was on carbon paper, which copied her signature on a different contract behind it and she had no knowledge of it. She also didn't kill the victim. It was all done by the producer to get Trucy's life ruined due to what her grandfather did to him in the past.

  • In Bad Machinery, two of the protagonists get a bully to sign a form by telling her it's a petition to lower the drinking age.
  • In this strip of Zero Percent Discount, a magician calls for an audience volunteer, then reveals that the audience member has volunteered not for a part in the show but to do volunteer work in the community.

    Web Original 
  • Door Monster: In Houbeaux Noveaux, the Other Hobo, under the guise of performing a magic trick, asks Jefferey to (among other things) sign a crushed cigarette that he had in his mouth. Later in the video, it's revealed the cigarette was actually a confession to robbing a house written on a slip of paper and rolled into a tube.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. In "Telling an Investment Scammer I Actually Got the Money," part of the scam is the scammer providing a document which both the victim and the scammer are supposed to sign in order make things more legitimate. It is, of course, nonsense, since once the scammer gets the money from the victim, they will cut and run. Kitboga modifies the document so that it specifies certain terms such as the scammer being required to chat with him on a 15 minute video call and provide him with five $100 Olive Garden gift cards upon signing, knowing that the scammer won't read it. Of course, given that it's a scammer, he has no way of enforcing this either, but he tries to make him read him out to humiliate him by having him read out loud what he signed.
  • There was a demotivational poster to this effect: The picture was Ronaldo giving autographs while the caption said: "During an autograph session with Polish fans, Ronaldo unexpectedly signed a life contract with Arka Gdynia."

    Western Animation 
  • In the episode "The Signature" of The Amazing World of Gumball, Richard learns that his mother is getting married to Louie and moving to Florida. To prevent this, Richard tells Louie to sign a wedding guest list that's actually adoption papers—ones that make Louie Richard's son, and thus gives him the authority to forbid Louie from seeing his fiancé anymore. Louie takes revenge by telling Richard's wife Nichole to sign school enrollment papers that make her his daughter so she has to obey the command of not seeing Richard anymore.
  • Animaniacs have an episode where the Warners are taking the place of Plotz's sick secretary. Yakko gives Plotz a few documents to sign, hiding among them a check payable to Yakko Warner for $80 zillion. He then shouts to his brother and sister, "We're rich!" Plotz takes the check away, to which Yakko merely says, "We're poor!"
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command the L.G.M.s got Commander Nebula (who hates robots) to approve the creation of XR by slipping the authorization form in with their vacation requests. (It's also implied they've successfully pulled this trick more than once before.)
  • On Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, in the episode "Home Sweet Homing Pigeon", Dick Dastardly asks Muttley, Klunk, and Zilly, who are being discharged, to sign his memory book. They actually signed four-year enlistment renewals.
  • In the Donald Duck cartoon The Flying Jalopy, Don buys an airplane from an unscrupulous Honest John type who makes him sign an insurance policy, but folds the paper to hide the fact that he, not Donald, is the beneficiary.
  • In the Droopy cartoon "The Chump Champ", a competitor in a sports contest set up a fake psychic reading tent and asked for Droopy's signature to get a reading off it. Turns out he tricked Droopy into signing a document confessing to cheating and forfeiting. Fortunately, Laser-Guided Karma came back to bite him.
  • In one episode of Fillmore!, the title character tricks Commissioner Vallejo into singing a requisition form for an expensive new set of walkie-talkies by almost knocking a lamp down on him and then confusing him with slang. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, a producer entices Bloo into signing an acting contract. However, Bloo didn't Read the Fine Print, and it turned out that he had been tricked into signing an adoption paper. The papers ended up being null and void because it wasn't run through Mr. Herriman first.
  • Gravity Falls: Subverted in "Little Dipper"; Lil' Gideon tries to trick Stan into signing away the deed to the Mystery Shack by hiding it in a giant novelty sweepstakes check. Stan, being an experienced conman himself, sees through it and signs it "Suck a lemon, little man!"
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Chloe asks her crush/local celebrity Adrien to sign a petition against cruelty to hamsters ("Have you seen some of the sweaters they're forced to wear?") that turns out to be a plain old autograph (which he simply doesn't like signing, because he just wants to be viewed as a normal kid). Well, an autograph under a paragraph declaring Adrien's love for Chloe, which she uses to lord over his other admirers.
  • The Pinky and the Brain episode "The Pinky Protocol" has Brain's Take Over the World plan hinging on a former president (Gerald Ford in this case) believing he was signing an autograph when it was actually a document connected to a conspiracy that Brain made up.
  • In the Rocky and Bullwinkle storyline "Painting Theft", Boris uses the autograph trick to get Bullwinkle to sign a will making Boris the moose's sole heir.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Inverted in "Bart the Fink": Instead of trying to get Krusty's signature in the guise of an autograph, Bart tries to get Krusty's autograph in the guise of a signature. He gives Krusty a check, expecting that Krusty will have to endorse it with his signature, but the plan fails because Krusty endorses his checks with the name of his Cayman Islands holding corporation.
    • In "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes", Burns discovers that Homer is sterile because of the radiation from the plant. He gets Homer to sign a liability waver and accept $2000 as compensation by telling him he's won an award and needs to sign paperwork for it (although Homer does insist on an awards ceremony).
    • In the episode "Bart Mangled Banner," Bart goes deaf after having a reaction to a vaccine that Dr. Hibbert applied. After explaining what happened Hibbert gives Homer a free pen and provides a piece of paper for him to try it out, and right after Homer signs his name on it, Hibbert unfolds the paper, revealing it to be a malpractice waiver.
  • In Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production, Bugs tricks Vladimir Angelo Chafong Reginald McMurthy into signing a trade contract by pretending to be a tourist and make him autograph several things without him [Vladimir] noticing. This makes it legal for Vladimir to join the Alaskan Halibuts.

    Real Life 
  • Douglas Adams claimed that The BBC did this to him to get the rights to release the unfinished Doctor Who story "Shada", which he wanted buried, on home video.
  • Allegedly, this was how Elizabeth I's council finally got her to sign the order to execute Mary of Scotland, by burying the order among a stack of other papers that needed her signature. In reality, Elizabeth knew the whole time but insisted that they make it look like this trope to try and lessen her personal culpability for Mary's death in the eyes of the world (Elizabeth always had...mixed feelings about executing a fellow monarch, especially with regard to how other nations would react to it).


Video Example(s):


Love and Kisses, Zaphod

In the film of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Zaphod Beeblebrox's stock with Tricia McMillan, a.k.a. "Trillian," tanks rather severely when she learns that he signed off on the order for the destruction of the planet Earth, thinking he was signing an autograph.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TrickedIntoSigning

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