Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jane Garrett, is urging Victorians to be wary if stopped on the street by someone who looks like a Buddhist monk asking for donations, as it is likely a scam.
The scammers pretend to be Buddhist monks by shaving their heads and dressing in orange robes, although they have occasionally been seen in darker clothing. Several women have also been seen perpetuating this scam.
The fake monks approach pedestrians and ask for money in exchange for prayer beads, amulets and spiritual guidebooks. Some have been known to carry a notebook to record donations and "bless" the donor.
They often approach by bowing their heads and smiling, before pushing a plastic hologram picture of Buddha into the pedestrian’s hand and asking for cash.
The fake monks are focusing on areas popular with tourists, including the Melbourne CBD and surrounding areas such as South Wharf and Southbank. Consumer Affairs Victoria has also had reports of fake monks roaming suburbs including Sunshine and Preston.
Buddhist monk Phuoc Dan of the Quang Minh Temple in Braybrook said that according to monastic rules laid down by Buddha 2500 years ago, monks were not allowed to ask for any money.
Legitimate fundraisers are registered. To report a fundraising scam, visit Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Dob in a Scam page or call 1300 55 81 81.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming & Liquor Regulation, Jane Garrett
“These heartless conmen operate by taking advantage of Victorians’ generosity.”
“It is an important and worthwhile practice to donate money to charity, but Victorians need to do their homework to ensure the fundraiser is legitimate.”
Warning signs to avoid a charity scam
• A collector makes a face-to-face approach but does not have any identification.
• The collector cannot or will not give you details about the charity, such as its full name, address or phone number.
• The collector becomes defensive when asked what the charity does and how much of the donation gets taken up by costs.
• The collector asks for cash, will not accept a cheque or asks for any cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity.
• The collector does not want to provide a receipt or the receipt does not have the charity’s details on it.
Reviewed 19 August 2020