Beware of conning ‘monks’

A pair of con-artists dressed as Buddhist monks have been sighted in and around the city tricking unsuspecting shoppers and tourists into giving them cash. 

CBD News spotted two men in September, approaching members of the public up in Southbank and in the CBD.

A group of four has also been spotted scamming people along South Wharf Promenade and outside the Arts Precinct.

The con-artists are a part of a scam that has been widely reported in other major cities around the world.

The scammers will often approach people by thrusting a gold-coloured plastic card with a hologram of Buddha into their hand, before demanding cash in return.

They will also ask people to write their initials and how much money they have given into a small notepad, which has records of previous “donations” listed.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said police were aware of the scam but were unable to charge the men, because they didn’t claim to be monks or say they were collecting money for a charity.

The Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils President Kim Hollows labeled the men as “characters” and said the scam was damaging the reputation of genuine Buddhist monks.

“In no way does Buddhism condone a monk or a nun, to wander the streets and ask people for money,” he said.

“We have a received a number of complaints from people over the scam, mainly from overseas tourists.”

Mr Hollows said genuine monks would also only ever wear sandals and not properly-closed shoes.

The public is being urged to ignore the con-artists’ advances if approached and to report any scams to Consumer Affairs.

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