If the bald, shaven man swathed in an orange robe accosting you for money seems a little less Zen than a Buddhist monk ought to be, chances are he’s a fraud appealing to your sense of piety to bilk you of your cash.

After Melbourne, San Francisco, Toronto and Tokyo, New York has become the latest city to see a rise in what The New York Post describes as “holy terrors”, a band of Chinese nationals who hit the streets in their Nike sneakers and use the power of the pious robe to beg tourists for money.

While beggar bowls may figure in Buddhism for food, monks depend on the goodwill of donors with quiet submission and refrain from begging for money, unlike the con artists who are described as aggressive, and have been seen to engage in distinctly un-Buddhist behaviour – namely drinking and smoking.

fake monks tourist

This man dressed in Buddhist monk attire is seen in the Bukit Bintang area asking for donations. He mostly targets tourists. Photo: Filepic

According to the paper, after working sites like Bryant Park and the High Line, the scammers return to Flushing in Queens, New York with the day’s earnings, change out of their robes if they haven’t already on the subway or in park restrooms, and tip back a boozy dinner with their co-faux monks.

Bogus monks have been cropping up around the world in recent months, playing out different variations of the scam.

In Toronto, faux monks threaten to place a curse on those who refused to give them money.

fake monks tourists

Fake monks can be seen everywhere, not just at Petaling Street. Recently, more fake monks have appeared in New York. Photo: Filepic

In Tokyo, San Francisco and Melbourne, the con artists approach their victims asking them to sign a petition for peace before offering up a bracelet and then pushing for donations.

Not only does the scheme cheat tourists and locals of their money, but it also tarnishes the reputation of authentic, practising monks and Buddhism.

So how do you tell real monks from fakes? Real monks will never beg for money. – AFP Relaxnews