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curse removal, cleansing scam
This scam involves convincing the mark that she and her valuables, including cash, are cursed and that the con artist, posing as a psychic, Tarot card reader, Gypsy, clairvoyant or the like has the power to cleanse the person and her money and jewelry, thereby lifting the curse. Modern con artists sometimes claim the problem is "negative energy" rather than a curse, which might appear too old-fashioned a term for people hip to the New Age.
Whenever a psychic claims to need your money or valuables for cleansing, she is preparing to take you to the cleaners. For example, Linda Marks claimed she was a Gypsy and could peer into the future. She liked to conjure snakes and scorpions out of chickens’ eggs and turn water blood-red. These parlor tricks would frighten gullible clients into believing that their lives were infected by evil spirits. The solution, she told them, was for them to give her all their money so she could pray over it and "cleanse" it of evil. They did, to the tune of about $2 million. Once she had their cash, the Gypsy and the money would disappear, as if by magic. Ms. Marks was arrested and convicted and was given four years in prison to perfect her art and repay the money she stole from her mostly elderly clients.
One psychic was arrested in Rocklin, California, who not only took money and jewelry for cleansing, but also took the clients shopping to buy items needed for the cleansing ritual (Campos 1999). Nothing too elaborate is needed for these rituals: some candles, some herbs. Burning sage might be nice for seducing the bereaved and bewildered.
websites & blogs
Psychic scams (the "curse" scam") - Rick Ross
What's the Harm? - Bob Carroll
Campos, Art. "'Psychic' didn't see her arrest coming," The Sacramento Bee. February 4, 1999, page B1.