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," the Rev. TK Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, a group that represents nearly two dozen Buddhist temples, tells the AP. "They are very aggressive and hostile if you don't give them money."
Nakagaki's 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." The AP spotted men in brightly colored robes harassing tourists in Times Square and along the High Line elevated park. Some of the monks were later seen handing wads of cash to another man waiting nearby. The AP tried to ask several men about their background and the temple they said the donations were being used to support. Each claimed to be a Buddhist monk collecting money for a temple in Thailand, but none could give its name or say where exactly it is located. All the men refused to give their names and took off when pressed for answers. (This real monk took on a thief at a Philadelphia gas station.)