AARP Eye Center
A New Jersey man in his 50s was having problems at work. In February, he turned to a psychic for help. During their first meeting, the psychic read tarot cards and peppered him with personal questions. That led to a second, costlier session at which she uttered an ominous warning: “You have a curse. It might be devastating for your family. It has to be removed immediately."
Next, she asked him to bring her $9,000 in a pillowcase with nine white roses, nine red roses and magnets. She said she would perform rituals and soon return the $9,000.
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Yearning for the bad karma to disappear, he did as instructed, scraping together money from friends, a rainy-day fund and an account earmarked for his son's college education. He says that his repeated attempts to get the money back from the psychic have not yielded a dime, and that police refused to pursue the matter. About five months after he gave her the $9,000, he lost his job in information technology, part of a pandemic-related layoff, and now is strapped.
"Everything is messed up right now,” he tells AARP. “I got psychologically trapped, and I never expected it to go this far."
"People are feeling very vulnerable and lost right now. Some seek out a therapist or religious adviser; some turn to a vice, like drinking, gambling or shopping; and some look to a psychic."
—AARP's Amy Nofziger, director, fraud programs
Called AARP helpline
The victim, who alerted AARP's free, toll-free Fraud Watch Network Helpline (877-908-3360), and his wife discussed their misfortune in an interview. They asked not to be identified by name.
The man said he began paying visits to the nearby psychic, who appeared to be in her mid-30s, after seeing glowing reviews about her online. The internet can be awash in fake testimonials from phony clients.
"Blindly, we just went in,” his wife says. “My husband was so desperate. We have been totally hurt.”
Calls to AARP's Helpline from people defrauded by self-described psychics, clairvoyants, fortune-tellers, spiritual advisers and such have risen since early this summer, says AARP's Amy Nofziger, director of fraud programs. One or two calls come in weekly; it used to be about one complaint every four months.
FBI: Complaints inching up
At the FBI, complaints about psychic frauds reported to its Internet Complaint Center, or IC3, likewise have been inching upward.
"Although IC3 does not see many of these types of complaints, there has been a slight uptick in reporting this year,” the FBI said in a statement to AARP. “Most of the complainants reporting these scams have not been victimized, but are being vigilant in reporting potential frauds they see on social media networks or receive via email."