Victorians being fleeced in scams by pretend psychics

Herald Sun, Australia/November 20, 2013

By Samantha Landy

A Melbourne woman who lost almost $90,000 to a bogus clairvoyant was among a host of vulnerable Victorians swindled out of thousands of dollars by psychic scammers this year.

Consumer Affairs Victoria received 13 complaints about psychic-related scams in the past financial year, but says the actual number is likely to be much higher as many go unreported.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also received 125 reports of phony fortune-tellers last year.

Of those, 41 people were duped out of almost $445,000.

An Alphington woman, 51, said a fake spiritualist named Habib Bamba drained her savings over seven months after she visited him for a $50 consultation in Fawkner, in Melbourne's north, in March after spotting his ad in a Greek newspaper.

The administration worker, who did not wish to be named, said she became convinced he was legitimate when he picked up on her medical problems in his reading.

She said the man told her he could rid her of "evil spirits" and prevent her from getting sick again if she sent him repeated cash instalments of up to $5000, but bad things would happen to her if she stopped the payments.

The woman eventually had to borrow money to satisfy the scammer.

By the time she went to the police, the supposed spiritualist had abandoned his home.

There was no answer when the Herald Sun called him on the number on his website yesterday.

Another Victorian coughed up $7500 over two months to a psychic scammer who told her the money was needed to prevent "dire events" happening to her family.

A third victim lost $4500 over a year to a clairvoyant who said she needed money to help reunite her with her partner.

CAV director Claire Noone said psychic scammers preyed on victims' vulnerability or insecurities, often contacting them to foreshadow a positive upcoming event or looming trouble for which they could offer a solution, such as a lucky charm or removing a curse or jinx.

Some scammers threatened to invoke a curse or bad luck charm if their victim refused to pay, Dr Noone said.

Those visiting psychics should ask themselves whether personal facts picked up in readings could be true of anyone, something they had mentioned previously or could be gathered from another source, such as social media.

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