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FBI Reports Psychic Scams Are On The Rise

Bad actors and scam artists are using 2020's year of uncertainty to trick older adults into giving them money by promising them good fortune.

It’s 2020, and it’s understandable people may want a spoiler as to what’s happening next. Or, they may want to get lucky. For generations, people have invested in psychics to help them peek into their futures. Some people swear by them, and others find it hokey. 

Regardless, seeing a psychic should be a choice. But some people masquerading as fortune- tellers are trying to trick older adults into giving away personal information and money. The FBI has noticed an uptick in people reporting psychic scams this year. 

Learning how to spot psychic scams can prevent you from falling victim to one. To help you, we discuss what they are with real-life examples, why and how they’re targeting older adults and tips for staying protected. 

What are psychic scams?

Psychic scams happen when someone approaches you and says you’re in some sort of trouble or that you may have good fortune coming. They’ll give you a way to fix the problem or attain the good luck. It may be that you need a curse or jinx removed, protection or winning lottery numbers. To get that quick fix, you’ll need to pay — and if you don’t, these scammers may threaten to put a curse or jinx on you. 

Recent examples include:

– A woman in Canada lost $24,000 to a scammer who said he could connect her with a loved one.

– A man in Washington racked up credit card debut when a con-artist promised to help him win back an ex-girlfriend, according to the AARP.

A palm reader in Massachusetts convinced a woman her daughter was possessed and conned her out of more than $70,000, claiming that she needed to pay up in order to exorcise the demons. 

Fortune tellers convinced a San Fransisco kindergarten teacher to drain her bank account and give up possessions, including her home. 

How are they targeting older adults?

Scammers target victims via email, telephone, regular mail or face-to-face. It may seem hard to believe that someone would give money to a psychic who calls unsolicited, but these con-artists are manipulative and skilled at convincing people they are telling the truth. Older adults may not be as technologically savvy. They also may feel lonely and isolated — especially during the pandemic — and be more inclined to jump at the chance to get in touch with a long-lost family member or friend.

Here’s how you can stay protected:

Though optimism can be a positive quality, it’s best to be a skeptic when approached by someone who claims to be a psychic. Never send personal information like your social security card or credit card to a psychic who reaches out unsolicited. Remember that agencies like the IRS and Social Security Administration will never ask you for information such as your social security number or credit card.

If talking to a psychic if something you think you’d like to do make sure to read reviews and be sure to speak with them about any ongoing or hidden fees before enlisting their services. 

If you think you’ve been victim of a scam, report it to your local police department or report your scam online with the FTC complaint assistant, or by phone at 1-877-382-4357 (9:00 AM – 8:00 PM, ET). The FTC accepts complaints about most scams.

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