Aggressive panhandlers are posing as monks in major cities.

How do you find a fake Buddhist monk, one might ask? Look for aggressive panhandlers with shaved heads and monk’s robes.

These fake monks have become a problem in major cities across the globe, reports the Lions Roar. And their hostility toward those who choose not to donate to the fabricated causes they advertise are threatening to ruin the very reputation they are using to trick people on the streets.

There may be no greater human image of kindness and peace than that of the Buddhist monk. The trust automatically given to them spreads this disturbing trend, to the point that Facebook pages like Fake Monks in New York City have been launched to protect unsuspecting citizens.

These phony monks (and their faux nun counterparts) have reportedly placed bracelets on tourists’ wrists, then aggressively blocked their paths in order to make them pay for it.

The problem has gotten so bad near Chelsea that the Friends of the High Line park put out a statement both recognizing that panhandling is legal in NYC, but that “it crosses the line when our trusting park visitors are touched or their paths are blocked.”

Local and official Buddhist groups are speaking out against the actions of these men and women. Michelle Dunson of the Buddhist Council of New York noted that, “It is very disrespectful for any religion for anyone to falsify who they are, and especially if they’re trying to make a gain.”

San Francisco and other major U.S. cities are fighting the same problems that New York City is, as is Toronto.

By 2014, the problem of fake monks had become so prevalent in China that authorities there began issuing certificates of authenticity to its 33,000 Buddhist temples and over 9,000 Taoist temples.

Recently, authorities in New York started posting warning signs, hoping that this will scare the monks off. If it doesn’t, they say the might have to look into legal options. 

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