Since publishing this article, I’ve discovered more and more layers to the Maria Duval psychic scam.
The victims of this horrible scam reside worldwide, but they all have at least one thing in common: they’re 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- the only thing needed for this to work is for the recipient to send in money!
The letters come from a French person named Maria Duval, who calls herself a clairvoyant. The letters quickly and easily convince the scam victims that this Duval woman will help them cure serious health issues, become instantly successful, and win large sums of money.
US Postal inspectors say Duval is at the center of one of the most significant mail fraud cases in history. So far, this scheme has brought in over $200 million from just US and Canada alone. Many investigators worldwide aren’t convinced that Maria Duval isn’t even a real person.
They wonder whether she’s just a made-up character created by one or more scam artists. However, ask the victims of this horrible scam, and they will tell you she’s all too real to them. The stories the victims have shared show how cold-hearted this scam is and are downright heartbreaking.
Duval Made The Victims Feel Close And Personal
Several victims replied to Duval’s mailings in length, opening up about their life fears and hopes. One of the responses taken as evidence by the U.S government says, “I’m already thinking what I’d do with all this money.
My wife wouldn’t have to work anymore and would drive a newer car, I would too. We could install air conditioning in our house.” They hastily added at the very bottom of the letter: “I forgot! A good amount of this money would go to the bank.”
To make matters worse, several of Duval’s victims had Alzheimer’s. One example is Leela DeVere’s mother, who had gotten into the habit of sending $139 monthly. Before long, this added up to thousands of dollars. DeVere is baffled how someone can do this to a senior citizen with Alzheimer’s.
Another letter told of how the victim had significant money problems and couldn’t afford a dentist appointment or new glasses. They apologized to Duval in the letter for not writing to her more often.
They explain that this is because they’ve 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 of personal and sensitive nature like this one, victims often feel a close connection with the letter sender. They can even become a little obsessed with them. The Evening Chronicle posted a story about a 17-year-old girl from the UK named Clare.
She was found dead in a river in 1998 with one of Duval’s letters in her pocket. The girls’ mother told the paper that 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,” she said.
No Shortage Of Customer Complaints Against Her
A search for customer complaints yields numerous victims. There are also victims’ family members who learned what was happening. They tell of the emotional and financial toll caused on their life.
There’s a particular complaint by a man who says his elderly father sent Duval $6,000, hoping to win money. “Now he’s broke and nothing came true. I hope these (people) can sleep at night,” he says.
One victim was a man diagnosed with brain cancer. He told of how Duval sent him “panicky” letters ordering him to send her $45 every two weeks. He complied, paying about $1,500 from his disability benefits. “She can never have enough. She’s the biggest scam ever.”
In several letters, Duval took a more menacing approach and used threats. She told them if they ignored her, misfortune awaited them.
One woman told the Scottish Daily Record and the Sunday Mail that she was frightened of what would happen to her if she didn’t pay.
“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’s the mother of five living on a fixed income and sending Duval money because she thought she would help her provide a better life for her children. “I’ve sent this woman lots of my money where I couldn’t pay my bills,” she said in an online complaint forum.
“Yes I feel like a fool, but when you receive (these) letters over and over you feel like a failure if you don’t send it in to get a better life for your children.”
Some Victims Were Left Broke And Homeless
A victim from 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 96-year-old father-in-law refused to accept the truth about the Duval letters. His father-in-law insisted 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’s 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 she finally realized it was a big scam and stopped sending her money, but funds are still 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 ever, 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.”