speaking of scams – don’t fall for the cold approach in-person

Even though most of my articles and replies these days focus on online scams and frauds, the local, low-tech, old-school scams and frauds are still out there.

Classics:

Someone approaches you in a public place and tells you that you have a dark spirit or energy or color or cloud or something about you. They employ various cold-reading tactics to home in on something that might strike a chord with you – you have a curse that makes your family stuck in place so you can’t get ahead, you aren’t getting the respect you deserve at work, you won’t find true faithful love, whatever they ascertain as likely depending on your demeanor, your shopping cart contents, your clothing, your jewelry, your car (and remember that if they approach you outside a store, they could have watched what you bought and ascertained a whole lot about your life). They give you a card and tell you to visit their reader who is a man/woman of God and can help you.

Someone approaches you and tells you that you look worried and/or asks you if everything is ok. Statistically, *something* is likely to be on anybody’s mind at any given time, but even if you say no, they proceed with “Oh, good, then it hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I get these feelings/see the future/etc…” and then they go on to scare the bejesus out of you with predictions about what will happen to you and your loved ones if you don’t pay to get the curse removed.

What makes these guys so awful is not even that they take your money and never do any real spiritual work, though that’s bad enough. What makes them so bad is that they can pick out people who are down and out a mile away, and kick them while they’re down by scaring the shit out of them.  Poverty, chronic worry, abuse, and desperation have an aura that attracts people like this – they can pick the easier marks out of a crowd. But statistically speaking, you can take a pretty small sampling of people in a Wal-Mart on any given afternoon and more than one of them is going to be having love or money problems.

Warning signs:

If someone approaches you in a public place (that is not a psychic’s convention or the like) and gives you an unsolicited reading, followed by an offer of help from a reader or worker whether it’s them or someone they know, be suspicious.

If the first reading involves a dark cloud or a curse that is causing all your problems and that nobody has been able to take off you before, be suspicious.[*]  There is no curse in existence that can ONLY be removed by one person, whom God is going to put in your path in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

If someone follows up the initial “you’re cursed” reading with “get these two candles for $200 that I’ll have blessed and set for you to remove the curse,” be very very suspicious. While $200 is not an unreasonable amount of money for some types of spellwork, an ethical worker will give you options about your work and will never tell you that they are your only option for getting uncrossed. And there are plenty of ways to help yourself through spiritual bathing and prayer that do not cost anything near this much.[**]

If someone follows up any of the above with ever-escalating amounts of money for ever-escalating work, walk away. An ethical worker will give you a quote for your work and will not come back after it’s begun and say “it’s much worse than I thought and I need another $500.” [***]

If someone tells you that they can help you but that you cannot tell anyone about the work they’re doing for you, run don’t walk. Don’t be fooled by some appeal to showing your faith or some garbage about the four pillars of magic.  “To Be Silent”  does not mean keeping your visits to a palmist a secret from your mother or your spouse or your best friend. (See the comments below for some expansion on what I mean by this.)

If someone then threatens you when you start backing away, or implies that if you don’t follow their directions you are doomed, or says they are the only one who can help you and that no other worker is strong enough to take off this curse, or implies that even worse stuff will befall you if you don’t act now, call the fucking cops. They probably can’t do much if you did not actually fall for their shtick and hand over your life savings, but you never know – they may be someone who’s already been investigated for confidence crimes, which are categorized as “theft by deception.” Hell, call me, too (well, email me). I’ll be happy to pop them in my Justice jar. An ethical worker will not threaten you, and many workers will make up some sort of written agreement about what your work involves and how much it will cost ahead of time, so that you are both clear and so that there is a record. Many will also give you some sort of record of the work, like a photograph of your altar setup as described, so that you know your work was done and the photo wasn’t just copied/pasted from another worker’s website. Certainly, if you are paying a significant sum of money for altar work, no ethical worker should freak out if you raise the idea of a written agreement or contract, if they don’t beat you to it and offer one at the outset. A scam artist will, though; they don’t want any record of this transaction and don’t want you to have any record.

By itself, there’s not really *one single indicator* that you are dealing with a fraud or scam. It is possible (though not likely) that your first reading with an ethical reader will see crossed conditions or a curse. It is possible that then the worker will suggest you have vigil lights set; if these lights don’t cost $200, and the reading didn’t shock you with something that had never crossed your mind before, and no warning bells go off, and you are not being guided by desperation or fear, and you can afford it, then this can even be a good idea (though you should feel free to get a second opinion – politely tell you reader you are doing this, and if they freak out and tell you that going to another reader for a second opinion will make your life worse, you have a warning sign).  But there are clusters of things that can be warning signs together (a regular, plain, undecorated Uncrossing candle set on an altar that is not part of a larger sacrifice or ritual should not cost $200), and there is a constellation of things that strongly suggest you are right to be suspicious (they should not give you the impression that they are the only one who can help you and that you are doomed if you don’t take their advice).

The thing is, these guys are masters at cold reading and masters at manipulating people. They suck you in, and nobody thinks it could ever happen to them. If you feel rattled by some encounter with a reader or worker, and you don’t feel you can just dismiss what they’re saying, then get a second opinion (from someone who does not advertise 99% success rates at reuniting lovers in 48 hours).

***

[*] Some readers who do not come from a conjure background will tell you that curses don’t really exist. You’ll hear from this psychics of a newer-age variety and from those who want to separate their profession from the scam artists advertising “reunites lovers.” But a lot of this is cultural. Curses and hexing/crossing are a fact of life in conjure, and they are a fact of life in the southeastern U.S. (and really all over the country and the world). I sell a healthy supply of stuff that people could use to do such work, and I sell it to people from *all walks of life,* from people who are working for barely more than minimum wage cleaning up after you in your hotel room to high-powered business execs.  Conjure products are used every day by people in every profession you can imagine, from cafeteria workers in your local middle school to politicians all over the world, to those in professions ranging from entertainment to education to drug trafficking to politics to healthcare to music to law enforcement to sex work to the sciences. It is everywhere, and some workers will undertake it on behalf of clients. However, the kind of curse that “holds you down” your whole life and has been in your family for generations is actually pretty rare, is not particularly easy to put in place, is a lot of trouble for someone to go to, and is a lot more likely with clients from some cultures than from others.

[**] My advice? If you are in a tight place financially, do NOT pay this kind of money for spellwork. Food and clothing come first. Never get a cash advance against your next paycheck to have a spell done. Never. Get a $25 consultation and learn how to do your own work with stuff you can get at the grocery store.

[***] If they were worth a shit as readers, they should be able to tell you at the outset if the option you choose might not take care of the whole situation permanently, if you might have to take further spiritual baths for a few months, or if you might want to follow up with another light every month, or if you might want to learn how to do spiritual cleansing of your home so you can keep it clean and protected, or if you really need to get some counseling or focus on drawing a new lover. It’s common for more info to emerge as candles and images are moved around during a working, but that info should not be fabricated just to get more money out of you.

***

If you are interested in this topic, you may be interested in the comments that unfolded on this post over at livejournal.

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