The sight of Buddhist monks asking for money on the streets of Toronto is ringing alarm bells for some, especially when it appears certain men with shaved heads and coloured robes are not what they seem.

Toronto police have received nearly a dozen complaints about men dressed as monks who have been asking passerby for money and demanding more when donations are offered.

Const. Bill Chan told CBC News that is not the way that real Buddhist monks solicit donations.

And while the men seen in Toronto might be dressed like monks, "actually, they are not," Chan said.

Most of the incidents reported to police have occurred in Toronto’s Chinatown neighbourhood, though Chan said in at least one case, these individuals were spotted at the Eaton Centre.

Hong Yan told CBC News she saw a suspicious monk outside her shop on Spadina Avenue this past spring.

She saw the monk stopping people on the street. While she kept walking, Yan said she couldn’t tell if the monk was real or not.

Cursing families

Real monks who walk around Chinatown do accept donations, but will never beg for money.

Venerable Jue Qian of Mississauga's Fo Guang Shan Temple said she's heard stories about the fake monks becoming agitated if people refuse them money.

"They get angry and they start to scold or they start to curse them," she said. "They don't even curse [just] them. They curse their family members."

'[The imposter monks] get angry and they start to scold or they start to curse them.' —Venerable Jue Qian, Fo Guang Shan Temple

Chan said people should avoid giving money to strangers, even if they appear to be actual monks.

And Chan said people should realize they are under no obligation to speak to people who approach them on the street.

He said that anyone who has been a victim of this apparent scam should contact police.