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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  • Woody

    So if they’re not really monks, are they just Fakirs?

    • Grocersgirl

      Heh heh

    • Tom

      Take a high five for that

  • Carl
  • cows4me

    They’re from the shakedown order.

  • Daniel

    Can’t believe people give money to these guys. If people have money to spare they shouldn’t give it to some crank religious guy on the street, they should give it to a legitimate religious guy, like Brian Tamaki, or a Catholic Priest.

    • willtin

      Well said Daniel. You forgot to add: to KDC’s defence fund.

  • Sticktotheknitting

    We have a buddhist community in Nelson. They do not beg. I can recognise most of them so will look out for the fakes. In winter I feel sorry for them they do not wear jeans under their robes and look so cold. We do have one beggar in Nelson she has a cell phone and smokes while sitting in front of a sign which says “Pleas help”, while I try to sell my hand made goods and pay tax on the mingy profits. No wonder I vote for the blue team. I am 72 very soon and she is around 40, also an immigrant .

  • willtin

    I remember the 70’s when the Hare Krishnas played up and down Queen St, (Auckland)
    seeking alms. At least they banged a tambourine or two. And chanted.
    To me, nowadays, a Charity is someone who is doing good and doesn’t have a huge ‘INFRASTRUCTURE’ demanding it’s cut.

  • 1951

    A friends daughter when waitressing over the summer holidays a couple of years ago picked up a wallet dropped by a customer. The wallet had wads of money to cause her to exclaim…”it was bursting at the seams”. The owner turned out to be one of the monks that had stopped in earlier. Real monks are fond of a bit of cash too.

  • Tom

    Beggars are beggars. They all get the same answer. Unless there’s a poppy involved

  • Nz front

    A real monk does not talk and can do hand stands with their index fingers.

  • BrutusIscariot

    This has been a feature of Sydney CBD for a while and there have been many articles in the local papers there. Guess it was only a matter of time before someone tried it on here…