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Paper Thin Disguise / Real Life

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  • In the book Secret Service Chief, a former head of the US Secret Service tells about his investigating a gang that passed fake checks. They entered a store, cashed some checks, went outside, switched hats and jackets and went back in and cashed more checks with different names. Several times. To the same clerk.
    • This is actually very understandable, and surprisingly easy to pull off. It's called Change Blindness. Here's a video showing a 'magic trick' where the back of the cards change color — and so do the table, the background, and the shirts of both participants.
  • One interesting real fake example comes from the character Robin Sage invented for the purpose of testing how likely it was that people in the defense and intelligence communities actually checked the backstories of people on social-networking sites. Her age was stated to be 25, yet she had 10 years of work experience in the cyber-security community as well as a degree from MIT. Her name is also taken from the US Army Special Forces final training exercise. In addition, her profile picture was taken from a porn website and chosen to look somewhat ambiguously foreign.
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  • An author who interviewed Marilyn Monroe later wrote of an incident that occurred when they were walking down the street talking. The author was confused that, although they were in plain sight, no one seemed to recognize her. Monroe then said, "Do you want to see her?" She changed her posture, walk and way she was speaking to what she used in the movies and suddenly people saw Marilyn Monroe, movie star and sex symbol, and reacted accordingly.
  • A reporter witnessed Mel Gibson do something similar when accompanying him to the DMV. Mel visibly "turned off the charm", changed his expression and posture and put on a baseball cap. He made himself so inconspicuous that even the clerk who saw all his documents and renewed his license took no notice of the resemblance to a famous man named "Mel Gibson".
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  • Man robs bank disguised as a tree.
  • This article has a very funny real-life example of this. A bald, bearded reporter wearing glasses showed up at NBC asking executives about Jay Leno's future... the funny thing is that they didn't know it was actually Jay Leno in disguise.
  • There was a man who tried to sneak over the border disguised as a pilot seat. Understandably, this did not sit well with the border patrol.
  • British TV prankster Jeremy Beadle was short, fat and bearded with one hand noticeably larger than the other, yet he frequently tricked people by wearing a false beard and dark glasses.
  • Toru Furuya, in working on Mobile Suit Gundam 00, only listed his name as the narrator. He used the pseudonym 'Noboru Sougetsu' as the voice of Ribbons Almark. However, fans' ears cannot be lied to and judging on how similar Ribbons and the narrator sound... The cover was blown easily, but Furuya insisted on using the pseudonym. 'To differentiate between Ribbons and Amuro...' Yeah, right...
    • There was never really a cover to begin with; Furuya and Bandai both were up-front about his being in 00. Also, Furuya said that the main reason he used the pseudonym was to keep from stealing attention away from the show's real stars.
    • At conventions, when asked about Ribbons, he's been known to leave to fetch Sougetsu... which involves him coming back wearing sunglasses.
  • When Wendee Lee was working on Rurouni Kenshin, she used her actual name when playing Yumi Komagata, but using the pseudonym Elyse Floyd when playing Yahiko Myojin. Given that Yahiko's one of the main characters of the show, it doesn't take that long to recognize Lee's voice if you're familiar with her work.
  • The same thing happens with actor-turned-voice-actor Johnny Yong Bosch in Gate Keepers. He voices both the main protagonist and the eventual main antagonist. Only in the antagonist's role is he credited by his actual name. His role as the protagonist uses the alias Jim Taggert. Indeed, many anime dub VAs have various aliases that are employed for personal or contractual reasons, such as David Lucas (real name: Steven Jay Blum), Dorothy Meneldrez (real name: Dorothy Elias Fahn), Heather Lee Joelson (real name: Melissa Fahn), and Jeremiah Freedman (real name: Joshua Seth). All of them (as well as Wendee Lee above) are well-known voices in the dub community, so it usually doesn't take long to figure out that a given name matches another.
  • Shakira managed to spend an entire summer at UCLA posing as a normal person. She went by her middle name and dressed up in a cap and pants. The fact that it hit the news after she was done with the classes proved how effective her disguise was.
  • For an "undercover" story, a reporter dressed as a typical college student hung around a college's dining hall. However, he was immediately discovered, because the student body population was so small that everyone knew each other and immediately recognized that the reporter was not one of their classmates.
  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart Stores, Inc., was able to successfully sneak into his competitors' stores unnoticed by simply leaving his trademark hat in the car. Even Walton himself never was able to figure out why this was so effective.
    • Probably because most people had only a passing familiarity with who Sam Walton was and absolutely no idea what he looked like. Even if you did, he was basically the "old white guy with neat haircut" version of The Nondescript in any case.
  • The mission for the liberation of FARC's hostages, among them Ingrid Bettancourt, was carried out by Colombian government officials who passed as FARC members by wearing Che Guevara and Hammer-and-Sickle T-shirts.
  • Errico Malatesta, the famous Italian anarchist and author, managed to evade arrest from the Italian police for years simply by shaving his beard.
  • During The Napoleonic Wars, the British employed "Exploring Officers," who would ride behind enemy lines, wearing full uniform in order to escape execution as spies. One such officer, Colquhoun Grant, was captured and sent to Paris. He escaped, but then reasoned that he could do his job as an Exploring Officer just as well in Paris as he could in Spain. So he wandered around Paris in full British uniform, gathering intel. He told anyone who challenged him that he was an American. When one old French soldier who had served in the American Revolutionary Wars called him out on this, he quickly amended his tale to being an American actor who was wearing his stage costume. Luckily, he escaped back to England.
  • Some people have a mental condition called prosopagnosia that makes it difficult, if not outright impossible, to remember faces. So even a Paper-Thin Disguise can be enough to fool people with the condition.
    • Such as the case of a man who changed clothes to get Dr. Karl to autograph different copies of the same book.
  • NY Mets Manager Bobby Valentine actually attempted this. He was ejected from a game for arguing with the home plate umpire, and then later returned to the bench wearing sunglasses with a fake mustache taped on. Officials were not amused, and Major League Baseball fined him $5000 and suspended him for two games.
  • Russians attempt to cross a vehicles-only bridge by disguising themselves as a bus.
  • Two idiot home robbers decided that drawing on their faces with sharpie would be enough to hide their identities. It wasn't.
  • During the World War II in Nazi Germany, spymaster Leopold Trepper unluckily arrived to his spy ring's clandestine radio station exactly at the time it was being raided by the Gestapo. Incredibly resourceful and composed, he introduced himself as a rabbit vendor (yes, you read that right) stopping by, and avoided apprehension.
  • While on the run from the government in 1805-1807, Aaron Burr's idea of a disguise was to simply discontinue his usual hours-long grooming routine and wear less flattering, more peasant-like clothes. The weirdest part is that it actually worked, at least until Bigbee Perkins eventually saw through it—and even then, Perkins only suspected Burr because he was out traveling in the middle of the night and refusing to answer any questions about why, so in other words, even Perkins likely would have been fooled if Burr hadn't been The Insomniac.
  • During the Boston Tea Party, Boston revolutionaries who threw the tea into the harbor were dressed as Mohawk Indians. This wasn't, as some believed, a flimsy attempt to pass the blame onto a Native American tribe. The rebels wanted the authorities to know that colonists were responsible. The actual purpose was simply to obscure their individual identities in the dark of night to avoid arrest, along with sending the message that they identified with America rather than Britain.
  • In 1995, a bank robber thought no one could identify him if he covered his face in lemon juice.
  • As it is acceptable to leave the house during COVID-19 lockdown to walk one's dog, a man walked a cardboard dog to be able to go outside.
  • "Multimodal Neurons in Artificial Neural Networks" discusses the idea of neurons tied to specific abstract concepts, regardless of how that concept is represented (such as text or an image). One of the more amusing results of the neural network having developed this feature is that, by writing "iPod" on a piece of paper and sticking it to an apple, the researchers were able to fool the network into identifying the apple as an actual iPod with 99.7% confidence, and there were similar but lesser results with the words "library", "pizza", and "toaster".


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