Fake monastic email scams

This seems to be a thing. I know that email scams generally are pretty common, but I have got a lot of fake emails from hacked monastics’ accounts. Perhaps you have had similar ones: ‘Help me, I am travelling and had my passport stolen…’

Are monastics being specially targeted, knowing that their kind supporters are likely to give money? It has been going on for some years already, which suggests that they must have had some success.

In any case, just a reminder: be safe! Don’t give out your email password or bank details. Don’t open or reply to emails from ‘The Gmail team’ or similar. Gmail never uses email to communicate with their users. Use a strong password, have a different password for different things, and change them from time to time.

Most importantly, use wisdom! Monastics will not contact people at random asking for money. If you are not familar with this kind of scam already, check out the pages at Snopes, and find out about phishing at hoax-slayer. The emails from supposedly stranded monastics are a little different from the standard phishing techniques, but they have many similarities. The basic trick is to use just enough personal detail to convince the recipient that the sender is the real person.

If in doubt, as a first measure, copy a distinctive phrase from the email and google it (using “double quotes” to search for the exact phrase). I just did that with the phrase “had my bag stolen from me” and there were plenty of results showing that it is a scam. (Incidentally, use this method also if you get any request to forward emails to spread so-called virus alerts and the like.)

If you think it is a scam, don’t reply to the email at all. If you do, they will know that you are a real person who uses that email account. Best to just mark the email as spam. If you are unsure, contact a third person who knows both of you, or contact the person asking for money using some other method.

The generosity of Buddhists for monastics is astonishing and humbling. There are many unscrupulous people who take advantage of this. In some places, men will dress as monks and beg for money in the markets. This kind of email scam is just a hi-tech version of the same thing. Be wise, don’t encourage criminals in the name of Buddhism.


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