New York City Buddhist leaders are sounding the alarm to tourists: Beware the “fake monks”. Men in orange robes claiming to be Buddhist monks are approaching visitors to some of the city’s most popular attractions, handing them shiny medallions and offering greetings of peace. They then hit them up for donations to help them build a temple in Thailand, and are persistent if their demands are refused. “The problem seems to be increasing,” said the Rev. TK Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, a group that represents nearly two dozen Buddhist temples.
They are very aggressive and hostile if you don’t give them money.
Rev. TK Nakagaki
His group has taken to the streets and social media to warn people that the men appear to have no affiliation to any Buddhist temple. “Please be aware,” read one Facebook post, “this is a scam.” Along the popular High Line elevated park, one of the robed men handed a couple a shiny, gold-colored medallion and a plastic beaded bracelet. He then showed them photos of a planned temple and barked, “Ten dollars! Twenty dollars!” When they wouldn’t give up cash, he snatched the trinkets back. Panhandling on city streets isn’t illegal in New York, as long as the person isn’t acting aggressively. But the city’s parks department has a rule that says it is unlawful to solicit money without a permit from the parks commissioner.