Scam Prevention Tips

Man lost $20,000+ to a Fortune Teller

By Marjorie Stephens – December 12, 2012

Posted in: Alerts/Scams, Consumer/Business Services, National

How does this sort of thing happen?  Obviously, a person doesn’t just walk up to a fortune teller and hand them this kind of money.  I mean it could happen, but one would think lots of coercion and threats of violence might be involved.  Plus, twenty grand is hard to come by, for most modest wage earners.  Ruling out coercion and violence, one might consider the possibility that the fortune teller has his/her craft down to an art and not simply that the victim is 100% gullible.

Let’s consider who might seek the services of a fortune teller.  It could be anyone, really.  It could be someone who is curious, with problems, who may or may not be superstitious.  Persons may be of poor health, had a heart break or unfortunate loss of some sort, if not in the past or present then possibly in the future.  Wow!  This could be about anyone.  The job of a fortune teller is to uncover this information in an unobtrusive way so as to appear to know a lot about their subject or they have no business.  How does this work?

A method is used called cold reading.  Cold reading is basically being a careful observer and superb listener.  By employing this tactic, one can learn lots about a person.   The person may not even realize all of the information that they are providing to the fortune teller because they are too busy chatting away.  The fortune teller, who is a keen observer of human nature, takes this information and profiles the individual.  By knowing a person’s habits, values, education, problems, joys in life, etc., they can retell information to their subject and make an educated guess about other people or aspects in their life.  Having past experience weaving people’s information, they come across as very convincing and are excellent at reading people’s verbal and nonverbal queues.  Plus, don’t underestimate the power of compassionate listening, which makes clients want to open up and eager to share their information.  When they do this, the fortune teller tells them things that they, themselves, never saw before or things of a personal nature that “only” a psychic could see or so it may seem.

Once a fortune teller has gained their subject’s trust, (i.e. convincing them of their abilities), more risks are taken.  Suggesting their life’s problems are caused by “evil, negative energy” or a curse is not uncommon.  To elaborate on this negative energy, the spiritualist, of course, needs more money so energies can be exerted into prayer, meditation, potions or whatnot, to come up with details.  Fortune tellers, especially, seem to target the religious.  As they practice religion as well, they commonly speak of biblical passages, prayer, healing, potions, evil spirits, etc., which further establishes them as one who can be trusted.  They may tell their subjects that because of their abilities to connect with the supernatural world that they have power to override darkness, which will cure their problems.  They can put on quite a show, as the fortune-telling tradition has been handed down, from generation to generation.

When the fortune teller elaborates on the negative energy and how it manifests itself in one’s life or future problems, more money may be requested to ward off this energy or evil spirits.  A client may be told to keep the teller’s work hush or it won’t work.  Another story may be told that the spirits are too powerful and more time and money is needed.  As long as the client keeps paying for services and the fortune teller renders them, the client may find themselves out $20,000!

Fortune telling is illegal in certain states, although it is upheld in others, where it is considered a part of religious freedom.  If you feel that you are a victim of a fortune-telling scam, contact law enforcement in your area and find out what your rights are.  The Better Business Bureau is always happy to offer advice as well.

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