Fortune Telling

Fortunetellers are like the Starbucks of scams.  There seems to be one on every corner.  Those neon signs promising a glimpse into your future for a mere $5 are seductive.  And if it was just five bucks for 30 minutes of entertainment, that might be okay.  Unfortunately, no one’s getting rich on $5 tarot card readings, so these “psychics” often feel the need to use scare tactics to get people to fork over a little more.  And by a little more, we’re talking tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How do they do it?  As it turns out, good news doesn’t pay as well as bad news, so a common scheme is to claim that the victim and/or her family is under some kind of curse that only the fortuneteller can remove.  Now, how would one go about removing a curse?  Let’s see.  Oh yes.  Money.  Lots of money.  Or maybe they tell you that someone you know is going to fall ill or be in an accident if you don’t fork over some cash.  Now their fate is in your hands.  Short on cash?  They’ll take credit cards, jewelry, or whatever valuable items you’ve got lying around.  

Self-proclaimed psychics are some of the most pernicious con artists around.  They specialize in preying on the weak and vulnerable – the elderly, the unhappy, the unemployed, even people dying from terminal illnesses.  People who seek out fortunetellers in a serious way are generally looking for some way to improve their lives.  What they get instead is someone who will bleed them dry.  

As if being told you’re under a curse wasn’t scary enough, psychics will use props to frighten their victims.  A favorite is the egg ritual, where an egg is cracked and blood, hair, or some other foreign substance is found inside.  This is supposed to be a “sign” that something evil is at work.  In reality, this is nothing more than a simple trick using sleight of hand and misdirection.  Special “anti-curse” candles are also popular and, of course, expensive.

“Look around the table. If you don’t see a sucker, get up, because you’re the sucker.”


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