A question I constantly receive when folks first find out that I’m employed as a psychic is how to tell the difference between those who wield actual psychic power and others with no such ability whatsoever who are simply masquerading as a clairvoyants in an attempt to perpetrate common psychic scams. The answer is pretty simple and always the same. In fact, just using your head for more than a hat rack should mostly allow you to see the difference. But as some psychic scams are pretty complex and purposefully designed to separate you from your money, I thought I’d take a quick look at these common traps and give you some advice on how to avoid becoming duped by an actual psychic scam artist.
For the most part, telling the difference between a psychic with true intuition and a scammer with none comes down to the techniques that they use in types of reading. The vast majority of fake psychics I’ve come across during my time in the industry use one standard approach to make you believe that they are in fact psychic. When what they are actually doing is simply listening to you and repeating things back that you’d like to hear. Some psychic scammers are so practiced at this craft that their victims never figure out that its all one well orchestrated ruse. These supposed psychics use something known as cold reading and it can be incredibly effective.
What Is a Cold Reading?
Cold reading is generally defined as being the use of a set of deceptive techniques employed by everyone from mentalists to magicians who provide proof of psychic ability with randomly selected subjects. It usually involves the issuing of very vague statements and questions that help the fake psychic garner information about the subject they are dealing with. By simply paying close attention to the person they are talking to during cold reading, these scam artists can gain everything they need to know about their subject to then be able to offer psychic advice that seems totally legit. We’ve all seen supposed television psychics use cold reading with audience members. But when a cold reading is performed one on one, it often feels much more valid than it does on Montel Williams. In fact, cold reading is so effective that it is used almost everywhere from the work of professional stage magicians to the online chats of disreputable psychics.
Here’s a couple of examples of what you might hear in a cold reading:
“I see that you have a family member: a mother or father, or maybe a grandparent… perhaps a sibling or cousin who has recently had a prolonged illness.”
Well, haven’t we all had a family member with some type of illness? I mean, between everyone from our cousins, siblings, parents and grandparents, certainly someone has high blood pressure or something. No doubt the answer is usually yes.
“Did you recently experience a traumatic event in your life like a medical condition or a lifestyle change that has made you put on weight?”
Well, duh, the supposed psychic scam artist has just noticed that you are fat. Not much of a secret there or that your weight is the result of a medical condition or lifestyle change.
“I see a person who is very close in your life. This person is of incredible importance to you. Their name starts with an M, an R or perhaps an S?”
Don’t we all know a Mike, Rob or Sarah who is important in our life? Yeah, we all do. I actually know a couple each. Notice that the letters almost always used correlate with some of the more commonly found names of the English language.
Once the supposed psychic has gathered enough information about you, they then go on to provide a reading which dazzles your mind with predictions of your future or advice about whatever it is they now know you are experiencing. This technique is usually so effective that we forget we have given them everything they need. And a cold reader often only requires a little bit of information to then make something completely up and pass it off as proof of their actual psychic power. Through cold reading they have gained your complete and total trust. By speaking to the information they learned from you and by mixing it with any old B.S. they use in their act, we can easily be convinced to pay them quite handily for session after session of psychic readings when its all just basic smoke, mirrors and total nonsense.
Psychic Security Question Phishing
Another complete fraud that should stand out as being merely a bogus trick is just a psychic scams twist on identity theft, or the gathering of information used for secret security questions of online accounts. During this particularly devious psychic scam, the identity thief poses as a psychic healer or some type of mystic to get your personal information and take you for a ride financially. And while it is normal for most real psychics to ask your name and gather some basic information from you to get to know you during a reading, they probably won’t need the name of the street you grew up on or that of your first pet. Seriously, people. I encourage you to think. Remember to use your head if anyone ever asks for this type of information during any psychic encounter and be aware that this is traditionally disguised in common banter.
“Oh, that’s great that you’re a dog lover. In fact, I feel you had a pet as a young child. Was your dog named Dudley, Max or Checkers?”
“No, but it was Chauncey,” you gleefully blurt out. Guess what? You’ve just been had if your clairvoyant is an internet hacker. And he’s done so without you even knowing it.
Someone asking what you like to eat might not just be making simple conversation with you, they might be trying to determine your favorite food so they can steal your identity. Now keep in mind that astrologers will tend to ask for your age, birth date and the city where you were born as part of the normal process of running astrological charts but they don’t need your current address or the name of your spouse to do their job. Always question why someone needs specific information about you when dealing with any type of psychic reading and if you think they are attempting to scam you, run for the hills.
Just Pay Some Money to Win the Lotto or Get a Huge Inheritance
I’m always amazed that people get away with this one. It doesn’t seem that much different to me from that online e-mail trick out of Nigeria but I guess they both work or we wouldn’t see them prevalently used on the internet. In this fraud, a fake psychic tells you that once you pay them a small sum of money you will either win the lottery or receive a huge financial windfall such as an inheritance or an anonymous donation. The one thing they all have in common is that you don’t. This psychic scam is no different from the Nigerian prince’s e-mail promising you great riches after you make a much smaller payment first. Of course, in both scams they will clean out your bank accounts if you give them any account information through the transaction. Please, don’t let your need for cash cause you to fall for this psychic deception. You’re far better off just burning money than by paying a person with supposed psychic abilities to ensure that you’ll win the lottery.
“You Are Cursed.” Eek, I’m Cursed!
This is actually the oldest psychic scam in the book. It was first thought to be propagated by gypsies toward the end of the middle ages but it is still very alive today both online and in fake psychic reading parlors worked by scam artists. In this common form of chicanery, the subject is told they are suffering from the effects of a curse or that a powerful force has put an evil hold upon their life. The con artist then always suggests a way to lift said curse which always involves the paying of money to the psychic scammer. Funds are needed to procure materials for a spell to lift the curse or to pay for sessions with the psychic that will solve the situation. This is nothing more than a simple confidence scam and almost always involves a huckster taking advantage of a naive or suggestible person.
Cold reading is often used in the first stages of the scam as well. The simple fact is that we have all had bad events take place in our life and usually the psychic scammer will elicit information from their subject to use to convince this mark that they are cursed. Often, the initial reading is quite cheap with subsequent visits costing more and more while the curse is diffused. I heard of one person who found themselves so trapped in a scam like this that they made over twenty visits to the faith healer in question before they finally figured out that the curse was never going to end as long as they continued to pay the con artist money. The only type of curse that you’ve had placed upon you in this situation is a psychic scam itself.
If you ever visit a fortune teller or enlist an online psychic and this results in information about you having a curse, I suggest you get out of that situation immediately. I’ve never seen any merit whatsoever to claims that a curse exists. Not once, not ever, never. Paying off a sycophant to remove a curse from your life only rewards these common criminals and perpetrates only more of this elicit paranormal activity. It is an affront to those with actual psychic ability working in the field of helping others and ruins the great name of all who are in my profession.
Have you encountered a psychic scam that I haven’t mentioned here? I would love to hear about it. Had an experience with a supposed psychic who used cold reading on you or told you that you were cursed? Leave me a comment below and I will happily add anything else you have to say to this psychic scams list.