Monday, 13 June 2016

Psychic and Fortune Teller Scams

These scams have been going on for centuries. They are also referred to as the bujo or egg curse scams and are conducted by confidence tricksters based on their claims of possessing secret or occult information. The basic feature of the scam involves diagnosing the victim (the "mark" with some sort of secret problem that only the grifter (a person who makes a living swindling from gullible victims)  can detect or diagnose, and then charging the mark for ineffectual treatments. The archetypical grifter working the scam is a woman who claims to be a legitimate fortune teller who convinces the mark that he or she is suffering from a curse that only the trickster and her magic  can relieve, while at the same time, threatening dire consequences facing the mark if the curse is not removed.

Their overall objective is to emotionally control and psychologically take advantage of you by tapping into your vulnerability and fears. They try to win your trust and loyalty to get you to confide in them, so they can use that information (whether emotional or financial) against you. They profess to know the cause of your problems and that they have the power to help you, and will do whatever needs to be done (in most cases asking for money) to benefit you in the end. They make sure that they put their hooks into you to convince you to still want to be involved in their scheme by enticing you to come back for more.

In this kind of scam, the so-called  fortune teller uses her skill to detect what a client is genuinely troubled with  rather than merely seeking entertainment or is a gambler complaining of bad luck etc. The fortune teller informs the mark that he or she is the victim of an unknown curse, but that for a fee she can remove the curse. In Romany, (language of the Gypsies, spoken in many dialects or simply gibberish) this trick is called bujo, that simply means “bag" but now it means a swindle involving a large amount of money from a gullible fortune telling customer.

This name comes from a traditional form of scam which is when the mark is told that the curse is in his or her money and that to remove the curse; the mark has to bring his or her money or the deed to the mark’s property in a paper bag in order to have the spell cast over it. Once all that gibberish is spoken by the trickster, claiming that the curse has been removed, (by sleight of hand showing the mark some disgusting matter in another similar bag as proof of the existence if the curse), she then hands the mark what he or she believes is the original bag and discovers that after mark has got home, that he or she has been left with a bag of worthless scrap paper.

These scams continue into the present day. A 1996 reported decision out of Hawaii described the scam as "a centuries old confidence game that victimized the elderly or those with emotional problems", describing its operation in this manner:

The female member of the Merino clan devised methods of extracting the victim's money. The victim may have been told that the money was the root of all evil, that it had to be tossed into the ocean or buried near a fresh grave in a graveyard, and credit cards were used on extravagant shopping sprees to purchase food, clothing, jewelry, and other merchandise for members of the Merino family's use and enjoyment.

A Texas woman was sentenced to 212 years on Federal charges for wire fraud and money laundering after she operated a scam involving a psychic telephone line. Not only did she receive fees of several hundred dollars for her psychic counselling, but she also convinced her so-called clients to send her money and property to be cleansed of "evil". In 2002, two self-described California based psychics were indicted on Federal mail fraud charges after persuading people to pay them to be cleared of bad karma, In 2006, two Connecticut women told another woman that God was going to kill her unless she paid them to perform various rituals, including chicken sacrifices, on her behalf. In Palmdale, California, a psychic reader was accused of inducing a 12-year-old girl to steal $10,000 worth of jewelry from her parents by threats of a curse. In 2013, con artists running a classic bujo scam were reportedly targeting Asian immigrants in New York City, tailoring their tales of curses to fit the Chinese folk religion. In Florida, a tarot card reader was facing trial for allegedly fleecing romance writer Jude Deveraux out of more than 25 million dollars.

A desire to protect people from this scam has been one argument made to justify legislation that makes fortune telling a crime. A New York State statute condemns a person who "claims or pretends" to "influence or affect evil spirits or curses" in its prohibition of fortune telling, while letting a person "who engages in the described conduct as part of a show or exhibition solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement" off the hook.[ Most current judicial opinions have held that fortune telling in itself is protected speech under the First Amendment, though some judges have noted that "such devices are routinely, if not uniformly used to bilk or fleece gullible patrons which of courser isn’t protected by the First Amendment.

In the Datalink Computer Services incident, another mark was fleeced of several million dollars by a firm that claimed that his computer was infected with viruses, and that the infection indicated an elaborate conspiracy against him on the Internet, involving the Central Intelligence Agency and Opus Dei. (an institution of the Roman Catholic Church). The victim was charged for elaborate and unnecessary computer security services, including the claim that a member of the Indian military had been sent to Honduras to investigate the source of the virus. The alleged scam lasted from August 2004 through October 2010 and is estimated to have cost the victim between 6 and 20 million US dollars. The victim later stated that he had been defrauded by grifters of the highest order.  How could anyone be conned so easily? Was he mentally defective? 

Another victim was diagnosed with clinical depression after his father died in 2006. Two years later, his 14-year marriage collapsed and he had to fight for access to his two children. Four years after that, he fell in love with a co-worker and got engaged, but the relationship fell apart just before the wedding. In 2013, his ex-fiancée filed harassment charges and he spent a night in jail. Almost immediately thereafter, he lost his job. He was an educated professional in his 40s, so he did what most of us would do. He reached for something to turn around his fortunes. Unfortunately, by seeking spiritual guidance from five Toronto fortune tellers only pushed him deeper into his personal turmoil. By the time he was finished being fleeced by those tricksters, he had lost as much as $25,000 and had to sell his house.  

After interviews with a dozen psychic marks, including a teacher, real-estate agent, a doctor, corporate manager and a Bay Street stockbroker, and hidden-camera visits to psychics, the study reveal the secrets of an industry estimated to be worth $2 billion (U.S.) in the United States alone. One in four North Americans believes in some form of paranormal activity, according to a 2005 Gallup poll.                                                                                                              
A skilled, convincing fortune teller can earn as much as $500,000 a year, says Miki Corazza, who has been in the business for 42 years and is increasingly concerned it has become rife with fraud. She said that there are people in this business who are not legitimate, and there are also a lot  people like her who are legitimate, who have gifts of varying degrees. She said in part that her service is providing empathy and support to people who have lost loved ones. She said that she was not in the business of false hope but is in the business of truth.  

This raises an interesting question. Can these people really speak with the dead?  I hardly think so.  If you believe in reincarnation and millions of people do, than you have to believe that when people die, their spirits are reborn again but not as an adult but as a new baby. It would not be possible for a fortune teller or anyone else for that matter to communicate with a newborn baby who as reincarnationists believe, came from a previous life.

However, I have to admit that if a fortune teller can convince a person who has lost a loved one into believing that the fortune teller or psychic or whoever, can communicate with a deceased loved one and in doing so, it brings peace to the person seeking that kind of help, then that is a good thing but if the fortune teller uses her gift of persuasion to milk the mark for everything he or she has, then it is morally and legally wrong.

Unfortunately, most victims if these scams are too embarrassed to turn to police for help in getting their money back. They realize quite quickly that this cash-on-demand business means there is more often than not any paper trail or visual or audio evidence.

The business is a combination of grooming and sales techniques linked to sometimes extravagant fees: charging hundreds of dollars for candles and bath salts to ward off evil spirits; asking clients to purchase gift cards and expensive items so the psychic can pray over them; the promise of wishes fulfilled through animal sacrifice; and signing up clients who are told that they are cursed with the “evil eye” to long-term cleansing.

One man came to that conclusion when he realized how foolish he was. He said, “I know it sounds ridiculous. It’s like how could you fall for such a thing?” He added that when you are depending on at a stage of your life and your vulnerability from what you are going through, they’re very good at making you believe what they tell you.

His financial descent began in 2009 when he visited a woman called Marina who told him that she was a psychic  who works from an office in a cavernous strip mall in Woodbridge, Ontario in Canada Pictures of Jesus hung on the walls, scented candles flickered and a small, black Bible sat on a large, mahogany desk.

He sat and poured out his troubles. When it came time to pay, he was stunned since it cost him hundreds of dollars for a single session. But he paid and he kept on paying, moving from psychic to psychic based he found via advertisements and ads. Before he finally quit a couple of years ago, he had been taken in by the tool box of psychic offerings.

One told him he needed to sacrifice a lamb or a pig to lift a curse. Another told him that since he bought his former girlfriend a television, he needed to buy a Best Buy gift card the psychic could pray over. Needless to say, she used it herself.

This unfortunate mark blew so much on bogus psychic services and supplies over the course of a decade that he had to sell his house. He now lives in Woodbridge as a tenant.

He would have been better off using the services of s psychiatrist and since he lives in Ontario, he wouldn’t have to pay for the services of a psychiatrist.

Lumped in with prohibitions against the practice of witchcraft, sorcery and “enchantment,” the Criminal Code of Canada makes it illegal to fraudulently “tell fortunes” for profit or “pretend from skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found. or communicate with the dead.

Fraud is difficult enough to prove, says Toronto police Det. Alan Spratt of the financial crimes unit, but the challenge is greater where the law and spiritual beliefs intersect.

He said, “I would be reluctant to charge anyone just solely on the basis that they could tell the future. If that’s their belief system and there is genuine intent and they don’t have criminal intent, I think it would be a difficult charge to prove.” I think the criminal intent to defraud is when they demand payment for their service.

Since 2010, Toronto police have charged 15 people with fraud relating to psychic practice, fortune telling or witchcraft.  There are a great many marks who hare hoodwinked into giving these scammers their money’

Going to the police is probably going to force them reveal a lot of personal stuff about themselves and they are faced with the problem of trying to prove what the fortune teller or so-called psychic told them and of course, they don’t have proof that they paid money for the services of the scammers. Often many of them are too embarrassed to tell their families as to what happened to them.

Many of these unfortunate victims are people seen by others to participate in their own problem. and that would make them poor witnesses in court. This type of person would be considered the type that would not hold up under cross-examination since they were  so easily duped and as such,  would be easy to manipulate, confuse, or get flustered during the cross-examination. Prosecutors only want slam dunks and plea deals and that is very rare.

“The percentage of these victims their money back through the criminal justice system is very, very low and I think these scammers know that. Many of the victims simply don’t want to go through the trial experience especially when the victim’s names are made public.

The social stigma aimed at victims helps the scammer’s industry continue to flourish, the experts say. But the stigma is unfair especially when these kinds of behaviours are considered as crazy, or as character defect, or moral deficiencies. They’re clearly causing people a great deal of distress.

There are three ways we can stop these scammers from defrauding their victims.

First, (if convicted of fraud) arrest them and send them to jail for long terms of incarceration. Second, ban them permanently from doing that business again and third, require fortune tellers and psychics to be licenced and as such, to keep records for inspection.

There’s no one type of person who falls for these scams. Victims include men and women of all races and cultures, all income brackets and professions. What they had in common when they spent money on the scams was desperation. Victims of these cases are of any age and background and share a common trait of seeking help in solving a problem in their life. Problems generally fall into three major categories: Love, Money and Health.

Certainly citizens have some responsibility for their behaviour, but also in terms of perspectives, I think we have to try to help these people who are susceptible to being victims of fraud both from the mental health community standpoint and also from the legal standpoint, I think we have to minimize the harm that comes from these predatory behaviours. I also think that children should be taught in school how to protect themselves from scammers like these people.

In one American city, it is illegal to practice Fortune Telling or Voodoo within the city limits. Its law is written as follows;

“It shall be unlawful for any person to advertise for or engage in, for any monied consideration, the business of (chronology, phrenology, astrology, palmistry), telling or pretending to tell fortunes, either with cards, hands, water, letters or other devices or methods, or to hold out inducements, either through the press or otherwise, or to set forth his power to settle lovers’ quarrels, to bring together the separated, to locate buried or hidden treasures, jewels, wills, bonds or other valuables, to remove evil influences, to give luck, to effect marriages, to heal sickness, to reveal secrets, to foretell the results of lawsuits, business transactions, investments of whatsoever nature, wills, deeds and/or mortgages, to locate lost or absent friends or relatives, to reveal, remove and avoid domestic troubles or to bring together the bitterest enemies converting them into staunchest friends. But nothing herein contained shall apply to any branch of medical science, or to any religious worship.” unquote

Are some people really psychic? I think some people are.

Morgan Robertson had written a book of fiction, called Futility that was about an unsinkable British ocean liner named the Titan that hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April and sank, taking hundreds to the bottom of the ocean. Robertson’s book about the Titan was published in 1898 — 14 years before the Titanic left Southampton, England, for New York City. 

American Tana Hoy is a psychic medium who claims to not only hear guides and spirits, but to see them physically as well. Hoy was doing a live radio program in 1995 in Fayetteville, NC, when he predicted a deadly terrorist attack on a building in Oklahoma City. Just 90 minutes later, tragedy struck at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building when Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices orchestrated what was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11/01. Hoy had also reported his prediction to the FBI four months before the attack.

Australian psychic Jeffry R. Palmer makes a lot of predictions, some of which come true, and some of which do not. Palmer accurately predicted the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean volcano eruption and ensuing tsunamis off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Over 230,000 people in fourteen countries were killed during these devastating natural disasters.

Palmer also accurately predicted the discovery that Korea was testing nuclear weapons, but he gained international recognition for predicting 2005's Hurricane Katrina, a storm that claimed 1,836 lives and is still among the top five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the U.S

Edgar Cayce predicted the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, future medical advancements that might make diagnosis from a drop of blood a possibility (DNA tests). He also forecasted the death of Kennedy. He made many more predictions that came true.

Many years ago, my wife and I were at a friend’s home and we spoke with a woman who told us an interesting story. She had a dream that her aunt had died and when she went to the funeral home the next day, the funeral home was lit up only by candles. The next day, she learned that her aunt had died and when she entered the funeral home, it was lit up only by candles. The reason what it was the day when the entire eastern seaboard of North America had a power failure.

My mother was definitely a psychic. In 1944, she dreamed that my father (who was a flight engineer in a bomber in Egypt during World War Two) was flying over the desert when his plane crashed. She had that dream three nights in a row. She recorded her dreams in her diary. When my father returned home from the war, he told my mother of the crash. She looked in her diary. Her first dream was three days before his plane crashed.

Years later when she was living in Hawaii, she woke up in the middle of the night and told my stepfather that her mother was dying. That morning she got a call from her brother who told her than their mother had just died.

I am not sure if I am psychic but consider the following.

When I was in grade five, I wrote an essay in which I forecasted planes taking off like a helicopter. There are planes that do that nowadays. When I was in grade nine, I wrote an essay in which I said that people will purchase goods by inserting a card into a machine and the money will be taken from their banks accounts. That came about years later.

Years ago. I and my wife had taken my aunt who was visiting us to the airport. On our way home, I told my wife that I think my aunt was in trouble. We returned and we discovered that she was lost in the wrong part of the airport. I guided her to the proper place where  she was to get her boarding pass.

One day in the 1980s, my wife placed a piece of paper in an envelope and sealed it. She gave it to me and asked me if I could tell her what she wrote on it. I told her that she wrote the word LOVE on it. It blew her mind and my own mind also.

I cannot explain this. Did I read her mind or was I psychic and foresaw that she would write that word on the pierce of paper

In 1975 while I was giving an address on terrorism at a United Nations conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, I warned the 100 nations attending of a possible scenario involving a terrorist killing an Canadian on a plane heading to Europe and that there would be a problem with reference  as to who had the jurisdiction to put the terrorist on trial and the terrorist would subsequently be released. Three years later, a similar scenario occurred just as I had foreseen.  The terrorists had killed an American on a passenger ship heading towards Europe and just as I predicted, when they were apprehended, they were released.

I do believe that psychics exist but I suggest that you be very wary of those who demand that you pay them money for their services. That also goes for fortune tellers. If you need their services for entertainment purposes; that is OK even if going to them will bring you peace after the loss of a loved one. But when they tell you that they are in communication with your loved one who has passed on, get up and leave before your next loss is your money. 

No comments: