Bogus Buddhist monks are scamming generous people by pretending to raise money for Victorian bushfire victims.
The scammers, dressed as monks with bald heads and orange dress, are asking for money around the Melbourne CBD and western suburbs under the guise of charity work.
Consumer Affairs minister Jane Garrett says the fake monks, and other travelling conmen, often tell people they are helping raise money for residents in disaster-affected regions.
“And generous Victorians and generous visitors will feel they’re doing their bit by helping,” she told reporters on Friday.
Ms Garrett says Consumer Affairs has fielded “dozens and dozens” of complaints about the fraudsters over the past 18 months, with authorities believing the scheme is becoming increasingly organised.
She says the fake monks sometimes seek up to $20 or $50 from donors, and also give out prayer beads or spiritual books for cash.
“They can get quite aggressive and what we’re learning is they’re getting more and more brazen,” Ms Garrett said.
“We believe this activity is increasing and it’s spreading.”
Genuine Buddhist monk Phuoc Dan says true monks will never approach people for money in a forceful way, and has called for the scammers to stop.
“It’s not something we’re very pleased about,” he said.
He says he is concerned genuine Buddhist monks will cop blame for the scam.