It’s the newest scamming craze in some parts of Europe: Call it the petition scam.
People with clipboards, like the young woman in aqua-coloured pants in Brussels above, accost you to sign a petition “for the children” without specifying what the cause actually is. If you sign, you are then compelled to make a “donation.” If you don’t, they harass you until you relent or you forcefully tell them to scram.
In one instance during my trip to Paris last month, I was stopped by two of them: One doing the talking and another “accidentally” bumping into me from behind. I later found one of the zippers of my sling-backpack undone. Happily, there was nothing of value there to steal but I felt violated and paranoid for a couple hours afterwards.
Don’t let the scams keep you from enjoying Europe — but it always pays to keep your head up.