Foreigners have been posing as false Buddhist monks and nuns in Singapore and Johor as part of an attempt to fleece unknowing victims of their hard earned money.

Complaints about these fake monks and nuns have been appearing in several Singapore Chinese evening dailies, as well as in Malaysian papers.

The most recent sighting of a middle aged “nun” in Johor was reported in Guang Ming daily on Tuesday. The imposter was spotted asking passersby for money. She was reportedly carrying a note pad in a black sack and had hidden her hair under a beanie.

Although she claimed that she was from a cave temple in Perak now raising funds for orphans living at the temple, she was exposed as a fraud after a knowledgable shop owner questioned her more about her temple. Just as the shop owner had wanted to find out more about her temple before making any donation, she quickly left, said the news report.

In 2013, after noticing a rising trend of such imposters, the Singapore Buddhist Federation called a press conference in 2013 to address the problem.

The fakes had been seen all over the island — from neighbourhoods such as Bukit Merah and Kreta Ayer to parts of town such as Clarke Quay, Raffles Place and Orchard Road.

The Buddhist leaders emphasised that monks are not allowed to ask for money using alms bowls and urged the public to call the police if they spot a bogus monk or nun.

Based on a past case, an imposter who passed himself off as a Thai monk had gotten up to $2,000 in a day just by selling “religious trinkets” and begging for money.

How to spot the real from the fake? Here are 6 tips for our readers to remember.

1. Appearance: Thai monks shave their eyebrows. Nuns do not put on any headwear.

2. No sale: Monks and nuns will not sell items such as Buddha images, prayer beads or relics.

3. No money: They will never beg for money in public.

4. Time limit: Alms bowls are only for collecting food and medicine, and monks can do these only till 11am.

5. Local: All monks based in Singapore do not go around with alms bowls asking for food and medicine.

6. Foreign: Monks visiting Singapore from countries such as Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka do sometimes go around asking for food and medicine.

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