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"Buddhist Monk" Scam Alert on Islington High Street, London

Hello Fellow Travellers,
just an FYI if you're wandering around in this area. This happened 2 weeks ago.

I came out of Holland & Barrett and stood outside the store to put my package away and to check my cell phone messages. Without warning, this "Buddhist monk" was standing in front of me and slipped a wooden bead bracelet on my wrist. (I was really caught off guard when he violated my personal space.) He showed me a small red card with a picture (very old) of an old, crumbling building and asked for a donation to help fix it. There was a tally of "donations" written on one side and they all said 20 or 40 pounds. Quickly realizing that this was a scam, I started feeling around in my bag for some change (he was looking very intensely where I was digging) and managed to come up with a coin. It was 2 pounds (!) but I gave it to him to make him go away. I asked him where the monastery was and what branch of Buddhism, etc., He looked at me with disdain for the pittance but knew I was on to him. Just as he walked away, a nice family of four came up to me and told me he had tried to get money from them too. As we looked in his direction he looked our way giving us the stink eye and shifted off quickly. He looked really pissed off!

Unbelievable. The funny thing is, I'm usually so vigilant about situational awareness but this guy really was bold! (I had to stop at Gails and cheer myself up with a pot of tea and a scone.) When I got back to our rental and told my dh I lost 2 pounds to a "Thai Monk," he just shook his head. I threw the bracelet in the rubbish bin. We visit London a lot so I felt like a big chump.

Several days later, we were walking on Islington High Street and there he was, delivering his spiel to an older lady. I tried to wave at her but then decided not to intervene as I remembered what our guide in Oxford told us about a street beggar we saw on our tour there. He was part of a criminal network and they could be dangerous. Just don't engage at all. Ugh.

I guess there's always a first time for everything. Fortunately, I always have my phone or wallet hidden and tethered to me when traveling. I guess I'll have to keep working on my situational awareness though! Happy and safe travels!

Posted by
913 posts

These guys have been around for years. I've never interacted with them but trying to do you for 20 or 40 quid is a bit off. Not to be confused with the actual monks at the Hare Krishna centre in Soho. Those guys seem a jolly bunch when you see them doing their thing.

Posted by
68 posts

Good to know they've found a successful business model (haha).
Yes, and I have seen the actual Hare Krishna folks so that's why I was so unsettled. I know George Harrison liked them.

Posted by
2795 posts

Let me see if have this correct. A stranger comes up to you, attaches something onto your body, and requires/demands money to remove it. You need to state that this is assault, and he has three seconds to remove it or you start screaming for police help. Or simply turn and walk away, let him claim you stole it. If folks would start responding this way regularly perhaps this activity might diminish.

Posted by
1549 posts

Ah, you had to mention Gail’s our favorite place to relax and enjoy a variety of treats.

Posted by
68 posts

Larry, well, it wasn't quite like that. He was non-threatening and I could have taken the bracelet off myself. I was just caught off-guard and should have just walked away. Also, I think the situation called for a bit of restraint. As a woman, I know when to choose when to make a big stink, if the situation calls for it.

Posted by
6816 posts

I wouldn’t have let him put the bracelet on at all. You should have taken it off and given it back to him. It’s similar to the Roma who try to give you an herb or something in Spain or Portugal. Say no and walk away.

Posted by
68 posts

Steven,

Gails is very cosy and the women who work there are very nice!

Posted by
68 posts

Hi Mary,

thank you for the link. I just thought it might help others to be aware. More than anything, I was just really annoyed that I got scammed! Cheers!

Posted by
922 posts

Moomin, my response was in no way to diminish what you experienced. I just wanted to add that this fake monk scam happens in many other big cities. My office used to be near famous tourist attractions in Boston and I used to see the "monks" on my lunchtime walks. Hopefully, future readers will heed your warning and be on guard.

Posted by
2063 posts

We had a similar experience in India 15 years ago when husband was approached at a tourist site and asked to contribute towards (can't remember what now). The person was very persuasive but we'd read about this scam before we left as it was quite a problem in India at the time, so we were both prepared for it. According to his clip board, people had contributed quite large sums of money....

Posted by
68 posts

Dear Wasleys,
oh my, that's funny and glad that you both knew about the scam.

Your story reminds me of the run-in I had with a monkey at the Hanuman monkey temple in Simla, probably around the same time you were in India. DH and I were sitting and admiring the view when I felt a thud on my head and I reached up to discover my sunglasses had disappeared. Then we saw the monkey run away with them. We started running after him yelling "bad monkey!" as he hissed and glared at us. Then, we saw the guy. He had taught the monkey to steal from tourists (so he could pretend to come to the rescue and we'd have to pay for his "help"). Yelling "bad monkey" had freaked him out as there were other tourists around. When we approached him, he made a sound and the monkey dropped my sunglasses. Good monkey.

Posted by
68 posts

Mary,
No worries! I didn't realize how widespread this problem was... yikes!