Fake Buddhist monks are back in town and Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning Sydneysiders to avoid giving them money.
Commissioner Stowe said the fake monks first materialised in January, fronting people in popular tourist locations like Circular Quay, Hyde Park, Surry Hills, Parramatta CBD and Darling Harbour and asking for donations.
“The Buddhist Council of Australia advised the alleged monks were not members of the Buddhist community and were in fact running a scam,” he said.
“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.
“They can reportedly become quite intimidating if people don’t hand over cash, so 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 said it was saddened by the re-appearance of the group.
Chairman of the Council, Brian White, said Buddhist monks and nuns were traditionally supported by their community and would never ask for money from strangers in this way.
“Instead, people voluntarily give requisites to monastics unsolicited and this is a practice that is done with a sense of joy,” he said.
Mr Stowe said consumers could identify face-to-face charity scams by the following features:
• The person who claims to be collecting donations on behalf of the charity approaches you face-to-face and does not have any identification. Remember, even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.
• The person tries to put pressure on you by making you feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to donate.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• The person doesn’t want to give you a receipt. Or they give you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.
Fair Trading recommends donating directly to the charity of your choice. Legitimate charities are registered in NSW with the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.