The Skepticism Around Fake Psychic Predictions and Promises
When suffering or facing the unknown, we often turn to religion or other sources of comfort to ask and answer the big “Why?” Why did he leave me? Why did my grandchild die? Why is my luck so bad? Why won’t my daughter speak to me? Many people seeking answers and guidance have learned from television or movies that psychics can offer helpful guidance. They may call up an advertised psychic or contact one online thinking they can get an instant “psychic” perspective. Maybe they don’t intend to believe what they hear, but the inquirer is often easily sucked in.
Fake psychics who work online or by phone are highly skilled business people, and psychic readings make up a 22-billion-dollar-a-year industry. This industry draws in customers and keeps them paying for guidance from strangers who sell themselves—without any proof—as specially gifted beings with answers about the unknown and the future.
“In Your Previous Life . . . “
The Most Common Psychic “Pickup Lines”
Fake psychics—be they shamans, astro-clairvoyants, mediums, rune readers, phone psychics, numerologists, or intuitive astrologers—often feed their clients these lines, and clients believe them and pay to hear more:
- Your troubles come from a previous life, and for money, I can fix that.
- I have never seen a chart (or numbers, or an aura) like yours. You are exceptional.
- You are under an evil influence or a black-magic spell and I can fix that.
- I guarantee to return your ex to you.
- I am a 100% proven psychic.
- In your previous life, you were royalty, a movie star, or died in the Holocaust.
- I sense a dead person is trying to contact you.
- Love and money are coming your way, but you need me to guide you and tell you what to do and when.
- I saw you in a vision (or a dream).
- Buying my magic talismans or crystals will help you.
- I need money to travel to a place (often France) where I can do an occult ritual to help you.
- Bad things will happen if you refuse my services.
- Someone important to you has the initial “R.”
- I have read for the rich and famous.
- You are surrounded by enemies; I am your only true friend.
- I inherited my psychic powers from my ancestors.
- Men call psychics about love only 11% of the time. Women ask about love 85% of the time.
- Women call psychics about love, and men call about business and money.
What Fake Psychics Know About You
Happy and contented people rarely call psychics. A fake psychic operation’s bread and butter is troubled people. The vast majority of callers are female. According to statistics from the American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums, 69% of women and 39% of men in the U.S. admit to having called a psychic hotline; 85% of the female callers ask about love, while men ask mostly about business and money.
In an ABC News interview, Mark Edward, a former phone psychic and the author of Psychic Blues, discussed how he handled his callers. He always began by asking questions:
“I ask for their name and birthday, and if they had a specific question. At $3.99 a minute, they want an answer quick. And then I answer as if I’m answering the question about myself. All these things about yourself are relatable. Nine out of 10 times you will hit a nerve with them. Then I’d pause and let them jump in. People love talking about themselves and hearing what you say about them.”
Edward would encourage clients to talk about themselves, and a 20-minute conversation would then become a much more lucrative hour-long conversation.
Traits That Make You a Target of Fake Psychics
These traits have been found to make a person vulnerable:
- Being female
- Age 21-60
- Going through a loss
- Problems with love
- Problems with finances
- Living with relatives or friends because of necessity
- Displaced from their home country
- Thinking they have to be strong for other people
- Unhappy with their work situation
- Feeling that others have the right to criticize them
- Feeling unattractive
- Dependent on others
- Feeling helpless
Phone or internet psychics can sometimes tell you with shocking accuracy about your current feelings or situation. That’s because the people who call mostly have some or all of the above traits. Experienced phone psychics will also listen to your tone, your accent, and even background noises in order to decide what to tell you. According to statistics, both rich and poor people call psychics, and half a million women said they’d gladly spend $1000 (if they had it) on a psychic friend they could talk to regularly.
The job of a fake psychic is to keep clients coming back, get them “addicted” to psychic readings, and take their money (most goes to the network, not the psychic) until the client either feels better or wakes up and smells the coffee.
The last psychic I talked to said she “woke up one day speaking Aramaic.” I didn’t believe her. If she’d lie about that, what else would she lie about?
How to Prepare for a Psychic Reading
Most “psychics” work for networks. Only 0.1% (2011-2014 statistics) work outside of networks, according to the American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums. These networks attract and tempt people with an initial offer for a free or discounted reading, but will try to get you to pay about $80 for a “second reading” or phone rates ranging from $1.99 to $6.99 per minute.
For troubled people, there are benefits to phone readings: they’re convenient (just a click or a phone call away, wherever you are) and they’re confidential. Internet psychic networks usually pretend to be one psychically gifted person or medium, such as “Padre,” or “The Extraordinary Chris,” and are also always available 24/7. That’s a clue that your reading will be “entertainment only”—not real answers, but computerized. Psychics, real and fake, have to eat and rest like everyone else.
If you’re going to call, prepare. Get a pre-paid credit card with a minimum amount on it; avoid the possibility of losing big money to charges you didn’t authorize or you didn’t think you authorized. There may be a tiny checked box you didn’t see on the website, or perhaps pressing a certain digit on your phone was the default, and now you belong to a “club” or “circle” that charges you monthly. A throwaway credit card reduces the risk.
Before you get to speak to a psychic reader on the phone, a clerk or salesperson will pry for all sorts of detailed information about you, and then hard-sell you on more than you want. Understand that the salesperson thinks you’re a sucker just because you called. Listen carefully to the clerk’s description of your options and the charges. If anything sounds slick or very expensive, object to it immediately. Say, “Stop!” and, “Will you explain that again?” Say, “But your ad said two dollars a minute. Why do you now say $6.99?” Troubled callers tend to be vulnerable and passive and easily distracted by fast talk. Stay conscious of how much money they intend to take from your credit card.
My First-Hand Experience With Psychic Hotlines
The tactics of online psychic hotlines aren’t illegal, they’re just pushy. Like any business, they want your money now:
- I’ve had a recording tell me, “You have $75 in your account,” when I did not create an account with them. They were just trying to get me to believe I had $75 to spend on their psychic services.
- I’ve had a clerk tell me I couldn’t have the advertised “free reading” with a psychic unless I first gave them my credit card information. I hung up.
- I responded to an ad that offered a five-minute reading for five dollars and phoned in. A clerk arranged my five minutes with the psychic, but before I got to talk to the psychic, he told me that almost every caller wants to extend the reading beyond five minutes. He also said I should give them my credit card information to pay in advance for the extra minutes. I told them I intended to listen to the psychic for five minutes and no more. They insisted. I said, “You advertised five minutes for $5 and I want my five minutes.” They finally gave me my five minutes and when a beep signaled that time was up, I hung up and owed them nothing extra.
Understand the psychic’s customer service and refund policies. Generally, you have between 7 and 30 days to claim a refund if you are not happy with the services received, but increasingly, refunds are very hard to get (for example, requiring that you must send a postal letter to Hong Kong). Sometimes, refunds are promised but not actually given.
What Are Some Alternatives to Psychic Readings?
Highly intelligent or educated people can be fooled into forking over their hard-earned money for fake psychic readings. No one is immune to a seduction that promises instant answers to painful problems—and we all have them from time to time.
If you must have a reading, don’t go online, and don’t phone a network. Even if there is a real psychic on the other end, electromagnetic interference between the caller and psychic, and the pressures of time and money might distort the reading. Consult an astrologer or Tarot card reader, preferably one you can meet in person. A genuine astrologer or Tarot reader will be glad to give you his or her full name and references so that trust can be established before you pour your heart out. The cost is a flat fee set beforehand, not per minute, and it will be a true reading by a true human practitioner. You can get all your questions answered and avoid tons of automated emails telling you that you need yet another reading for a higher and higher price.
Can’t find a local, live diviner? Don’t have a nickel to spare? When you are suffering, don’t search online and pay strangers for answers that their own websites say are meant for “entertainment only.” Instead, look around you and find an older, experienced person who has led a good life. Ask them for their honest advice and take their advice. The right person will not be shocked or upset by what you have to say. They know life is not easy and not every question has an answer.