Earlier this week I wrote about journalists exploring the secret world of fraudulent street psychics in Toronto, Journalists Take A Look Into Toronto’s Fraudulent Psychic Industry. This is a continuation that talks about how all sorts of people from different backgrounds can fall prey to these scammers.
The victims of these types of scams are very diverse; there is not a single type of personality that gets caught more than others. The journalists discovered that the victims included women and men of all different financial standing, careers, races, and cultures. The only thing they did share was the feeling of desperation that led them to spending so much money on these scams.
All names have been changed for reasons of anonymity
26-year-old Amal is a sales professional from Toronto. She started visiting a street psychic in 2007 when she was just a teenager. She visited with the psychic for five years until she got into York University and the woman started demanding that Amal give her her OSAP funds.
“My parents are from the Caribbean and we grew up around superstition. I grew up hearing about these things. I’m a very spiritual person and I do believe there are people who have gifts and can tap into things. People use it for good and people use it for bad.”
“She just wanted money all the time to do all of these things and it didn’t make sense. She talked about selling me $800 candles she would light and pray for me. I said, ‘Are you insane?’”
Samantha is also a sales professional and is in her thirties. She comes from a Guyanese community in which many believe in some form of black magic so seeing a psychic wasn’t unheard of for her. Samantha was desperate to revive a relationship and in her attempts she turned to a total of three separate psychics in the course of five years starting in 2007 and ended up spending almost $9,000. Two of those psychics both told her the same thing; that she had a curse on her and that the man she loved did want to be with her but the curse was keeping him away, and also that a different woman wanted to be with this man and it would happen if she didn’t act quickly. One of those psychics wanted $1,700 to be paid in a payment plan but the other one was way greedier- she wanted a payment of $6,600!
“I was very desperate. I was so in love. I struggled and made the payments. They ask for money for candles and incense to remove the darkness around me. I would pay a couple of hundred dollars at a time,” she says.
The journalists also spoke to a woman named Marian, a stockbroker in Toronto who had a string of bad luck happen in her life. She was in seven car accidents between the years 2010 and 2012, lost the position she had had at her job for thirteen years at a major bank, got divorced from her husband, and watched as both of her children became gravely ill. By the time she visited with a fortuneteller from Mississauga who told her she was cursed, Marian was so willing to believe that. Her response to the psychic was simply “of course”. Between 2008 and 2014 she spent about $5,000 on six different fortunetellers.
Marian always considered herself a devout Roman Catholic and eventually got convinced that the cause of her problems was all things “occult”. She burned her tarot cards, swore off fortune telling, and even booked a flight with her sister to Vatican City in search of an exorcist. This all came after she had already been scammed by psychics however and taken for a lot of money.
One of the psychics Marian visited told her, “You’re afraid of what’s going to happen next. You live in fear. And, at that point, you look at how to rescue yourself.” She sold Marian a package that would rid her of her curse that included candles, an amulet, and special bath salts for $1,000.
The last victim we will discuss is a 30-year-old high school teacher named Anthony. Anthony and his girlfriend broke up about five years ago and ended up throwing away about $2,500 on a psychic shortly afterwards. It all began with small little fees here and there for readings that progressed to hundreds of dollars for things such as prayer candles and before he knew it, it got so bad that it looked like a scary movie in the shop and he realized he needed to discontinue these visits.
“There was this girl I liked. Things fell apart and I wanted her back. He did a prayer thing over this water before I drank it and then told me to look up and gargle with it. I did what he told me. But when I spit on the piece of paper, there were all these insects. It grossed me out completely. Centipedes and crawling bugs… I was just like, ‘That didn’t come out of me.’ He said, ‘Yes, it did.’ His reaction was like I was going to die. He said I was cursed. When I wasn’t looking, he obviously tossed these bugs onto the desk. Then he asked me for money to lift the curse on me- $2,500. I never got the girl back. I’m embarrassed to talk about it now.”