Fake Buddhist monks back in Sydney

Scammers dressed in Buddhist robes are back in Sydney to take advantage of crowds at the Vivid festival.
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01.Phony monks and the city

Fake monks in Sydney

A gang of bogus Buddhists is back in Sydney, asking unsuspecting locals and tourists for donations and, according to the NSW Department of Fair Trading, intimidating people who don’t hand over cash.

The scammers, who are dressed up in phony Buddhist monk outfits, were first sighted in Sydney in January and then moved on to Victoria before returning to their original stomping ground. Photos of the men originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and have been reproduced with permission.

“The Buddhist Council of Australia advised the alleged monks were not members of the Buddhist community and were in fact running a scam,” Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe says. “Fake monks were reported most recently in Victoria and we suspect they may have returned to Sydney recently to take advantage of the influx of tourists here for the Vivid Festival." 

One of the fake monks photo courtesy of SMH
A man claiming to be a monk in Sydney's CBD. Photo: Megan Levy, smh.com.au
Above: A group of fake monks have returned to Sydney. Photo: Pete Wilson, smh.com.au

According to the Commissioner, the fake monks can become intimidating if their solicitations fall on deaf ears. “If that happens Fair Trading is advising people to report incidents to the nearest police station.”

“Genuine followers of Buddhism adhere to ethical precepts so scamming people for money is hardly likely to lead to the sublime state of Nirvana. People can also report fake monks to Fair Trading on 13 32 20.”

The Buddhist Council of NSW says Buddhist monks and nuns would never ask for money from strangers, and are usually supported by their community.

NSW Fair Trading's warning signs of a charity scam

  1. The person who claims to be collecting donations on behalf of the charity approaches you face-to-face and does not have any identification. But even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.
  2. The person tries to put pressure on you by making you feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to donate.
  3. The person asking for money cannot or will not give you details about the charity, such as its full name, tax status, address or phone number.
  4. The person gets defensive if you ask any questions about what the charity does and how much of the donation gets taken up by costs.
  5. The person asks for a cash donation and they don’t want to accept a cheque. Or they want the cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity. 
  6. The person doesn’t want to give you a receipt, or gives you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.



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