As far as scams go, this one is admittedly on the lowball side. But in a city filled with newcomers to urban life, I'll bet it's a lucrative one: people costumed as monks, some of them faking physical injury, as they clutch passers-by, as they aggressively seek "donations" for beads.
Reporting from Union Square, Stanley Roberts has caught a number of what he calls "faux monks" on camera, robe-clad men and women who grab people passing them on the street, handing them beaded bracelets or folded pieces of paper then demanding as much as $5 for the items.
You turn down their request, then they snatch back the bracelet. So, no harm, no foul, maybe? Or maybe not, as one can imagine that the whole "give me money for the bracelet I just put on you" thing has manipulated more than one person into avoiding what might be seen as an awkward scene with a religious person.
And, of course, there's the whole grabbing and clutching you thing. As a police officer who stopped one of the fake monks noted, hanging on some stranger as you demand their dough is the very definition of aggressive panhandling, and isn't legal in San Francisco. As a fun side note, Roberts points out that the false ascetic appeared to fake a limp as he backed away from the cop, as he was walking tall and strong before and after his interaction with SFPD.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, this is hardly the most horrifying criminal operation going on in San Francisco today, but it's still pretty annoying! After all, it's one thing to give money to a panhandler or religious organization (real or fake) of your own free will. It's another to feel forced into the transaction, especially by a guy who can't even bother to stay in limpy character for his entire work day.