People claiming to be traveling monks or temple-goers are approaching UTD students around campus and asking for money.
The people usually claim they are from a local temple and hand out religious texts, saying famous figures such as Albert Einstein read those books. They also ask the student for compensation in the form of donations. David Garvin, a computer engineering senior, was approached by a man near Founder’s North on Feb. 1.
He said the man looked like he wasn’t supposed to be there and kept looking around constantly as he was speaking. The man mentioned that he usually takes donations for the books, and produced a card reader when Garvin said he didn’t have any cash.
“He brought out books from his bag,” Garvin said. “The first one was about Hinduism, and he had (books about) Hinduism and Buddhism. It wasn’t just one religion. He kept bringing up historical figure names like, ‘Oh, so and so Jefferson was into this.’ At first, I wasn’t really bothered by it but then he started talking about Sanskrit, and at this point I had three books in my hands and I was trying not to be rude even though I was late for class.”
Seth Ray, a physics junior, was stopped by a traveling monk outside of Green Hall last year. He said the man was very non-aggressive and dressed in hipster-like clothing.
“I said I didn’t have any money and he said ‘Well, money’s not an issue, you can have the book so as long as you read it,’” Ray said. “He seemed super chill, it was almost like he was really, really relaxed.”
The Mercury attempted to contact the temple Ray was invited to, Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas, but they could not be reached for more information about this practice, and if these people are even from their temple.
The UTD Police Department deals with the removal of unauthorized individuals on campus. Lt. Ken MacKenzie said since he joined the department in 2010, he’d frequently seen solicitation on campus and in many different forms. While he wasn’t familiar with the “traveling monks,” all solicitors are told to leave the campus unless they are a part of a student-backed program.
“If you get in contact with somebody like this, it’s supposed to be approved, and the best thing for them to do would be to call us and we’ll send somebody out to approve the function,” he said. “I’ll tell you right now somebody here that’s selling books or walking around asking for money isn’t going to be approved.”
MacKenzie said these types of scammers usually target UTD and other college campuses because of how small the campus areas are and the concentrated population density. He said that often, the solicitors approach college students because of their willingness to give. It’s difficult to help students who have fallen victim to these scams by giving them money to compensate for the amount they donated, because the students volunteer to give money, and the collection of those funds cannot be considered an offense, he said.
“You have all these young students who maybe don’t know any better, even though they’re intelligent,” MacKenzie said. “When it comes to common sense, sometimes they’re still learning. At this college, we have so many people that are so intelligent that are preyed upon because they are so generous and want to help people.”
People who receive a criminal trespass warning are not allowed to return. If they do return, they are arrested on the spot. If students encounter any form of solicitation, they should call the police non-emergency number, 972-883-2222, or simply 2222 on any campus phone, and a police officer will be dispatched to their location.