$200 Million Psychic Scam Targeted The Elderly Leaving Them Broke and Homeless
The victims of this horrible scam may be spread out all over the world, but they all have at least one thing in common; the fact that they are all desperate for a change in their financial situation.
They come from a wide range of backgrounds; people in debt trying to get their finances straightened out, senior citizens who are struggling and trying to live off of social security or who have illnesses or disabilities, or just plain people on the verge of becoming homeless.
It’s a pretty basic scam; people are receiving letters to their homes with promises of psychic guidance and special talismans that can completely change their lives for the better- all that is needed for this to work is for the letter recipient to send in money! The letters come from a French person named Maria Duval who calls herself a clairvoyant.
Victims of this fraudulent plot are quickly and easily convinced that this Duval woman will help them cure serious health issues, become instantly successful, and win large sums of money.
Postal inspectors with the United States Postal Service say that Duval is at the very center of one of the biggest mail fraud cases in history. So far this scheme has brought in over $200 million from just US and Canada alone.
There are a number of investigators around the world who aren’t convinced that a Maria Duval is even a real person and wonder whether she is just a made up character created by a scam artist or artists. Ask the victims of this horrible scam however and they will tell you she is all to real for them.
All of the stories the victims have shared really show how cold-hearted this scam is and are downright heartbreaking.
Several of the victims replied to Duval’s mailings in length and open up about their fears and hopes in life.
“I’m already thinking what I would do with all this money,” says one of the responses, which was taken as evidence by the U.S government. “My wife would not have to work anymore and would drive a newer car. So I would too. We could install air conditioning in our house.” At the very bottom of the letter they had hastily added: “I forgot! A good amount of this money would go to the bank.”
Among those who fell victim to the Duval scam, there were several who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, such as Leela DeVere’s mother who had gotten in the habit of sending the psychic $139 every month. Not surprisingly, this soon added up to thousands of dollars. DeVere is baffled how someone can do this to a senior citizen with Alzheimer’s.
Another letter sent to Duval and taken by authorities told of how the victim was going through major money problems and of how they could not afford a dentist appointment or new glasses. They also apologized to Duval in the letter for not writing her more often. They explain that the reason for this is that they have been in “distress” with back problems. “I am getting more broke every day. I can’t send what I don’t have,” they explain.
In scams such as these, of such a personal and sensitive nature, it is very common for the victims to feel a very close connection with the author at the other end of the mailings, and even become a little obsessed with them. The Evening Chronicle posted a story about a 17-year-old girl from the United Kingdom who in 1998 was found dead in a river with one of Duval’s letters in her pocket. The girls’ mother told the paper that her daughter, Clare, had been writing back and forth with Duval for several weeks before she passed away. “Clare used to be a happy girl but she went downhill after getting involved with all this,” said the mother.
If you search online for consumer forums for Maria Duval, you will find that they are full of complaints from both people who fell prey to the scam and their family members who became aware of what was going on. They tell of the emotional and financial toll Maria Duval has caused in their life. There is a particular complaint by the child of an elderly man who sent Duval $6,000 in the hopes of winning money. “Now he’s broke and nothing came true. I hope these (people) are able to sleep at night,” they say.
There is a victim who was diagnosed with brain cancer and they told of how Duval would send him “panicky” letters ordering him to send her $45 every two weeks. The victim would and it ended up costing him about $1,500 in his disability benefits. “She can never have enough. She is the biggest scam ever.”
In several of the letters that were discovered, Duval took a more menacing approach and actually threatened the receivers, telling them that if they ignored her, misfortune awaited them. One woman told the Scottish Daily Record and the Sunday Mail newspaper that she was frightened of what would happen to her if she didn’t send Duval money.
“When I wrote to say I didn’t have that kind of cash, the letters got even more frightening,” she said. “I was so scared I couldn’t eat or sleep worrying whether I’d be hit by more bad luck. I was convinced I’d need further heart surgery and this time I might not survive.”
Then there is the mother to five children who was living on a fixed income who was sending Duval money because she thought Duval would help her provide a better life for her children. “I have sent this woman lots of my money where I could not pay my bills,” she said in an online customer complaint forum. “Yes I feel like a fool, but when you receive (these) letters over and over you feel like a failure if you did not send it in to get a better life for your children.”
One of the victims, a woman from the state of Michigan, told of how Duval’s letters came into her life during some of her darkest days. She had gone through a divorce, lost her job, and her son had just joined the military. “This scam crushed the last bit of hope I had in any kindness or miracle that could be, and pushed me over the edge,” she wrote on the forum. “Congrats! You got another weak one.”
A resident of Milwaukee wrote about how their father-in-law who was 96-years-old refused to accept the truth about the Duval letters, he insisted that they were genuine and refused to believe they were a scam. He even continued trying to send money to her after his family realized what was happening and closed his bank account. “He is now bankrupt and at the mercy of the state. He is so desperate for money that he pins all his hopes on this,” they said.
We also read the complaint of an 82-year-old widow from Oregon who said she regrets ever sending Duval money. She states that she finally realized it was all a great big scam and stopped sending her money but funds kept being taken out of her checking account automatically. “I live on Social Security, so don’t have very much money. Can someone please help me?” reads her complaint.
One particularly troubling online complaint was from a victim in Utah. They wrote of how they were in the worst financial shape they have ever been in thanks to Duval. “All she wanted from me is money. Now I am homeless and $5,000 in debt. I need dental care, and I have no money to pay.”