Cassandra Mac-Leane is a psychic from Vancouver. She teaches people how to spot a deceitful psychic from a mile away. She provides tips on her website for giving people the warning signs they need to know.
Mac-Leane does this because she believes that the fake psychics give her honest psychics a bad name, and it also causes them to be “tarred with the same brush,” which she dislikes. She states that these fraudulent psychics use tricks “as old as written history.” For example, cracking open an egg to unearth a black omen.
“One year, I met two professors from UBC who fell victim. That just gives you a sense of how convincing they are,” she says. In the past, authorities and police performed raids on fraudulent palm readers and psychics. But recently, it’s become the customers’ responsibility to do homework and choose a psychic wisely.”
“It’s up to a person’s own beliefs whether they choose to believe in this stuff,” says Sergeant Randy Fincham. He is a spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department. “My spells are 100% real, not fake, so if you need real spells that work, then call me, and I can help you,” reads an ad posted on Kijiji.com.
Last August, eBay.com decided to stop allowing customers to sell any services related to psychics. They banned spells, curses, fortunetelling, hexing, magic, blessing services, magic potions, healing sessions, etc. They put this ban in place for fear of condoning fraudulent activity.
A Law To Protect People From Fake Psychics Was Put In Place
“When you defraud people out of their savings, or you risk their health, it doesn’t matter if mainstream religious leaders or witch doctors do it,” says the Section 365 law draft of the 1892 Criminal Code. This law is one of the anti-dueling measures the Canadian government has.
This Canadian law stems from the medieval English laws made to detect and burn “witches” and “gypsies,” according to the 1999 criminology thesis by Tracesandra McDonald, a University of Ottawa student. The Section 365 law is used in the Toronto area alone every few months. For example, in 2009, a 36-year-old named Vishwantee Persaud was charged under Section 365 for practicing fake supernatural powers.
Authorities accused her of scamming $100,000 from a lawyer who was her client. However, the court substituted the “witchcraft” charges with “fraud” in her case. The chief spokesman for the Centre for Inquiry, Justin Trottier, believes the Section 365 law should apply to “witches” and any con artist who uses their religious beliefs to steal from people.
He is unhappy that they are currently only charged with standard fraud charges. “When you defraud people out of their savings, or you risk their health, it doesn’t matter if it’s done by mainstream religious leaders, witch doctors, or Tarot card readers, the justice system should apply the law consistently,” he says.
Second-degree high priestess with the Wiccan Church of Canada Nicole Cooper agrees. “I am all for this law,” she says. “Many people every year that I personally hear about- and surely many more- are bilked out of thousands of dollars by unscrupulous charlatans offering ‘spiritual’ services in exchange for high fees.”
Convicting Under The Law Isn’t Always Easy
Though courts use this law regularly, getting a conviction to hold up is another story. That’s because charging someone for violating Section 365 opens the possibility of bumping up against people’s “freedom of conscience and religion” rights, which the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees.
“Prosecutors would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the ‘bad guy’ doesn’t have these powers and… I don’t even know how you’d prove that,” says Sergeant Fincham. This law to protect people from fake “witchcraft” has existed for over a century since its inception. However, Canadian cities are still full of fake sorcerers, swindling psychics, and sham conjures.
“I think the rarity of the charge comes down to the rarity of people coming forward,” says Detective Constable Turnbull. He works for the Toronto Police Department. “You’re trying to explain to people that they’re victims, and they don’t believe you. They believe the guy’s power is real.”
Last week, Turnbull’s division convicted Gustavo Gomez under Section 365 of the Criminal Code. Gomez calls himself a “healer” and advertises himself in Ontario and Quebec on Spanish radio stations and print ads. He would convince people they were under a curse and that he could lift it for $10,000 to $15,000.
Several Similar Scams Are Going Around
The Toronto Police Department warns citizens of “curse-lifters,” similar to Gomez, who target the Chinese community. Fraudsters are approaching Cantonese-speaking senior citizens, convincing them of a curse, having them put all their money and valuable items into a bag, then taking off with the bag. These scammers sometimes promise the victims “lucky jade bracelets” or bottles of “blessed mystical water.”
They are widespread in Vancouver. “We’ve had about seven [incidents] reported to us,” says Detective Constable Jay Amundsen, who works for the Vancouver Police Department. “We’re talking about $100,000,” he adds. In the past, these paranormal scams were performed mainly by con artists pretending to be palm readers or psychics. They attract customers, lie to them about curses, and charge them a hefty price to eliminate them.
Approaching people on the streets to scam them is a relatively new crime. Tara Greene is a psychic and astrologer in Toronto. In her email to the National Post, she says that con artists posing as psychics usually “start cheap or free.” They then hook victims, charge more money, and promise impossible things for them to deliver.” Even though Greene’s website states that she is a psychic and astrologer, she prefers to call herself an “intuitive counselor.”
She uses standard psychic tools like crystal balls and tarot cards. However, she always tells her clients that her services are “for entertainment purposes only” for legal reasons. “I use my intuition, I can see psychically [but] it is the client’s choice what to do with the information. I’m not responsible for what they do after that,” she says.