Monks Loiter Vivid Festival 'For Cash in Exchange of Medallions'

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By Athena Yenko | June 5, 2014 3:11 PM EST

Tourists have been warned against a group of fake monks loitering in Vivid Festival to take advantage of unaware victim for cash in exchange of their medallions.

The bogus monks are dressed in orange robes very similar to genuine Buddhist monks. People are advised not to give money to these fraudsters as they are not in any way related to Buddhism.

"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," NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Buddhist monks will never, under any occasion, approach people and ask for money in the streets, Brian White, chairman of the Buddhist Council of NSW, said.

"We are saddened by this behaviour. Buddhist monks and nuns are 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 which is done with a sense of joy," White added.

The fake monks were frequenting the sites of Circular Quay or Darling Harbour and rangers at the site have reported of escorting them away from the area for two consecutive times in May. Whenever approached by the authorities, these "monks" pretend to not understand English.

Fairfax Media found these monks will storm off when offered few dollars for their medallions.

How to identify a potential 'face-to-face' charity scam as advised by NSW Fair Trading:

-    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 that 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 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.

-    People can report sightings of fake monks to NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

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