Fake monks are after your cash

Lincoln Tan from the NZ Herald investigated this personally

Questions surround people dressed as Buddhist monks who are targeting tourists and shoppers in Queen St to solicit cash donations for a Thai temple.

An Auckland Thai temple says it is against the rules for Buddhist monks and nuns to ask for donations, and questions the monks’ activities.

At least three were spotted during the busy lunch hour yesterday, one wearing Nike sports shoes, and another a branded watch.

A monk offered this Herald reporter a Buddha image and a prayer-bead wristband, then asked for donations – first to “cover the cost” of the items, then seeking larger sums for the Thai temple.

He flipped open a notebook showing people had donated sums of between $5 and $200 to the cause.

“Donate more and you get more blessing and peace from Buddha,” said the monk in Nike shoes.

He would not give his name or say which temple he was from. He said he had just arrived from Thailand and also needed money to help cover the cost of his air ticket.

After the reporter identified himself, the monk claimed he spoke no English and began chanting and walked away.

Funny that.  

A woman said one of the monks followed her into a Queen St shop and asked her to get “cash out” from her Eftpos card after she told him that she had no cash.

“I felt pressured into giving him $10 just to go away.”

Chavaritch Mounlath, spokesman for the Thai Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Kelston, confirmed that the temple was not seeking any public donations.

“They are definitely not Thai monks. The type of robe they are wearing is more Chinese, and you don’t see monks wearing Nike and jeans under their robes,” Mr Mounlath said. “We would advise people against donating anything to them because they could be imposters, and what they’re doing is basically wrong.”

Mr Mounlath said that if the monks were from Thailand, their eyebrows would have been shaved.

It was also against monastic rules for monks to solicit or beg for money, he said.

“Monks do go out with alms bowls, but they do not ask for things, and what they get must have been given willingly,” he said.

“They would never ask for cash from strangers, or sell prayer beads and religious items in this way.”

So, are any laws broken?

“Council staff have observed the monk giving away literature and beads, for which he doesn’t ask payment. As this is for religious reasons he does not require a permit under the current Street Trading Bylaw,” he said.

So, beware the roaming faux monks that are just trying to scam you out of your money.   That’s different from Len Brown who, to date, hasn’t tried passing himself off as a Buddhist.

They aren’t local, are suspected to have come via Australia, and are believed to be just Chinese nationals with a ‘costume’ taking advantage of people with a good heart.

I ran an article on charity and donations a while ago, and in the comments there seemed to be a pretty clear move from people to only give to causes where they themselves feel the money will go to what they donated it for.

Now that they’re getting known around Auckland for running a scam, I suspect they’ll pop up in other New Zealand cities.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.