In this article when I use the term 'Psychic' I am talking about Readers of all types- Tarot, Pendulum, Oracle, Intuitive, Bone, Healers, Reiki, Psychics, Aura, Clairvoyant, Reflexology, Astrology, and the list goes on. I will use 'Psychic' and 'Reader' interchangeably. I will use 'Psychic' as the catch-all term for all the different kinds of readers that exist, as they are all susceptible to fraud and scamming practices. Please note this does not mean they are all operating as psychics (they aren't). 'Psychic' is the catch-all term used by official government agencies who monitor and prosecute scams of this nature. Also, it's just easier for me to write one word to represent all.
Download or read this Sample Code of Ethics for Readers and Psychics
Fake, phoney, scammer, fraud, charlatan - whatever you want to call them, there are 'Spiritual' folks out here offering readings who don't have your best interests at heart. You need to know what to look for so you can protect yourself and minimize your risk.
I can't stress enough how vital it is to have a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to speaking to any psychic, reader, astrologer, clairvoyant, healer or other Spiritualist. Look for and actively seek out red flags from the start, don't wait for them to accumulate and overpower you. More often than not, if you are paying attention, the majority of readers will have red flags. I hate that for our community, but it's the truth and we need to be able to admit that so we can call it out.
Knowing that the majority of readers are operating in some kind of sketchy way doesn't mean they are all intentional frauds or have ill-intentions. Psychics and readers who are self-deluded is unfortunately a real factor, too. Some are using cold reading techniques without even knowing they are doing it - they are subconsciously repeating techniques they've learned, used or stumbled on that work often enough, while convincing themselves they are 'gifted', or receiving messages from 'Spirit' or the divine.
To be clear, there are many, many wonderful, ethical readers out there! We just have to know how to find them, because they sadly do not represent the majority of those providing these kinds of services.
We can simultaneously believe in the Spiritual, in the mysteries, and still maintain our skepticism. You don't have to abandon critical thinking, reason & logic in order to participate in the magickal world. You need those so you don't end up letting confirmation bias and the power of suggestion override your inner alert system or convince you that fantasy is real simply because you want it to be.
Let me say now, though that I personally believe in the ability to speak to the Dead, to sense metaphysical and Spiritual energy, to glean truth, information and insight from cards, dreams, or journeying. I've experienced these myself and know there is so much more to life than just what we can see with our physical eyes or measure with modern instruments. I believe in our ability to tap into the collective wisdom and hack our consciousness. I believe real magick exists. And I believe these are not 'gifts', but inherent human traits we all have access to.
I also know people are capable of being deceptive- especially to themselves, manipulative, self-serving and exploitative. I know people are capable of justifying their actions and that people have a real blind spot for their own toxic traits and harmful behaviors. I know people are inclined to believe in their heart they are good and kind even when they are not, and continue causing harm with a clear conscience. Just because we work within a 'Spiritual' setting doesn't mean we are immune from bad actors. When we bury our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise we end up with what we have now- an overwhelming number of frauds and scammers hiding in plain sight, happy to take your money with no concern for your well-being afterwards.
During times of transition, it's normal for us to seek out guidance and clarity in our personal lives.
Psychic services and Readers promise to provide insight into the hidden parts of our lives, especially the parts we ourselves don't want to look at. Whether that be the past, present or future, we seek them out for answers, guidance and clarity. They offer us hope when we feel lost, anxious, at a crossroads, or overwhelmed. However, not all readers, mediums or psychics are well-intentioned, and it’s crucial to be aware of the prevalence of psychic scams that can leave victims emotionally and financially devastated.
Whatever you think a psychic scam artist or con looks like, try to remove that from your mind now. They can look like anyone and anything. They can be your favorite crystal shop owner. They can be the Tarot reader on the boardwalk. They can be the palm reader at the local fair. They can be your local occult store clerk. They can be your reiki healer. They can be the Light Worker. They can be that person who is always doing free readings at the park or in your local Witchy or Pagan group. They can have a well-established business with TV or radio commercials and regular or even famous clientele. They can even be the medium you've been visiting every month for years and consider a close friend. Not all fraudulent psychics operate in the seedy shadows. In fact, most look like legitimate businesses and readers who are trustworthy.
Seeing or experiencing even one of the red flags listed below is cause for concern and suspicion. For me, even one of these is enough to be fully suss and walk away. More than one or even several red flags? Witch, consider this an invitation and your wake-up call to run as fast and as far away from this person as you can, and to not look back. You're welcome.
Psychic scams prey on vulnerable individuals seeking answers or guidance in various aspects of their lives, manipulating their emotions and exploiting their beliefs for personal financial gain.
These scams range from cold and hot readings, where general statements and gathered information are used to feign psychic abilities, to more elaborate scams such as curse removal or spiritual cleansing, where fear and superstition are leveraged to charge exorbitant fees for non-existent services. Love spells, psychic investment advice, and unqualified healing practices can lead to heartache, financial ruin, and potentially dangerous health outcomes.
Sadly, many psychics also masquerade as mediums, astrologers, or pet communicators, charging high fees for providing fake messages, generic horoscopes, or false reassurances. Psychic research scams are particularly insidious, as they involve the theft of personal information and finances from unsuspecting participants. In all cases, psychic scams erode trust and take advantage of people’s innate desire to find hope, clarity, and connection in their lives.
🚩1. They Make Promises About Things Outside Their Control
Watch out for psychics who guarantee outcomes they have no control over, such as good health, a financial windfall or a new romance. These promises are commonly used scams and because they reinforce what the client wants to hear, they work.
In fact, your Tarot Reader, medium or Intuitive Healer can not guarantee anything they tell you. When you get a reading, the information changes the moment you walk out of that door because the information you just received is now subject to your influence. Every action and thought you have after the reading will alter the reading from that point forward. Readings are a snapshot of a brief moment in time, and will change based on the decisions you make.
Often this is done when matters of health, money or romance are being discussed. No, your psychic can NOT guarantee you that your partner is cheating, that your cancer is all gone (or that you have it), that your new romance is 'the one', that you will be perfectly safe during your travels, or that you will soon be enjoying financial wealth.
That doesn't mean readings are useless. When done well, a reading can help us identify areas in our life that need our attention so we can go home and start working on the things that we want to change, or stay open to opportunities coming our way. It can help us identify where our blind spots are. It can help us see roadblocks or people who may be helping or standing between us and our goals. It can help us see potential danger to our goals so we can avoid it or face it. Readings can help give us clarity into what our options are, see the bigger picture and get some perspective. Readings can remind us that everything is not as bad as we think. It can be a welcome balm of hope that everything is temporary and there's good things still ahead for us. It can be an opportunity for us to let go of some of our stress and burdens in order to free up space in our mind, heart and body for joy and optimism again. Readings can help us problem solve and make rational decisions. And they can help us be open to receiving messages from our Spiritual allies, or to listen to what our own intuition is telling us.
Readers who tell you that what they see for you is guaranteed are red flags. Nothing in a reading is ever written in stone.
🚩2. They Ask For Financial Information
Never give money or credit card or bank account information to anyone you do not know or trust. Sketchy readers work to create immediate trust with you so you will let your guard down. Keep your guard up when it comes to your money.
A reader NEVER needs to know your bank information, including the name of your bank, any part of a checking or savings account number, passwords, pin numbers, access to your online banking or to see a bank statement. Never pay a reader or psychic with a check as they can be too easily altered and gives away information like account numbers, your home address and bank name, and disputing a check is much harder than a card. Readers are not investment bankers or money experts- they never need to know what kinds of investments you have, your assets, or any other details about your finances. It's OK to stay vague if you are asking about financial matters. The reader doesn't need those details to get an accurate reading, and if they say they do, run.
Many modern readers accept cash and credit cards for payment. That's OK. But I would personally be wary of any reader who wasn't using a recognizable card-reader machine. For example, if you are having a reading done by phone, it would be a red flag if the reader asked you to read your card number to them instead of using an online platform and payment provider. The reason for the red flag is that credible payment providers require strict terms of service and verification of identity for businesses to be able to accept someone's card for payment. The customer is more protected and the business must operate in a way that isn't fraudulent.
🚩3. They Lack Transparency In Their Services and Pricing
Know who you’re dealing with. If you want to engage the services of a psychic, be sure you know the total cost of anything you order and exactly what you will receive.
There's no reason you can't know what the service costs before you book or begin the reading or session, so be sure to ask and find out before agreeing to anything.
Ask if there are any conditions and ongoing or hidden costs. Get in writing appointment details and a summary of future services you’re paying for. Don't pay for services that you didn't agree to upfront.
You book a 30-minute session or reading but then when you get there receive a 60-minute reading with a demand for additional money for the extended services at the end.
You book a 30-minute session but at the end of the 30-minutes they are not done, or they tell you that you have 'extra' energy to clear they didn't know about and you'll need to stay longer to finish or receive additional services for another fee.
You should also have no problem with full transparency when you ask them any questions about what exactly you should expect to receive for that fee. Is it 30-minutes of them reading Tarot cards or casting the bones and telling you what they see? Is it three questions and intuitive answers? Is it a twenty-minute consult followed by a ten-card reading? Is it a reading followed by a smoke cleansing? Is it a 25 minute reiki session followed by a 20-minute sound bath? If the psychic, healer or reader doesn't want to give that information, or if it fluctuates based on what 'Spirit calls them to charge', or if they want to wait until after the reading begins to tell you, run.
🚩4. They Ask for Secrecy
Do talk to a friend, loved one or someone you trust before getting services from a psychic or medium. Don’t comply if a psychic service provider tells you to keep interactions secret.
Fraudulent psychics don't want you getting ideas. Ideas like they might not be on the up and up. They may have you fooled, but they know they can't fool your friends and family as easily. Fraudulent readers don't want to run the risk of your friends or family warning you that something sounds off, that you may be being taken advantage of or exploited. They don't want someone calling the police on them. They don't want their meal ticket to vanish on them. They tell you your family or friends can't be trusted, or won't understand, that they'll misinterpret, might even think you're crazy, they'll overreact, or react from a place of fear and ignorance. They tell you your friends or family are toxic or abusive and to go no contact- but they are not a qualified (aka licensed) therapist who can give you any such advice. They tell you that your family and friends aren't enlightened, tapped in or wise like you are. They say the information is meant only for you. They may even imply some harm will come to you if you tell, possibly under the guise that your Ancestors or Spirit guides will punish you for not 'listening to them'.
🚩5. They Identify Problems Only They Can Help Solve
The psychic identifies problems or things wrong with you and your life that they have the solution for- usually for a fee. If only they can help or if the solution is more money for the 'cure', run.
You get a reading or go to a healing session and they 'find' something during the course of the reading or session. A 'curse', 'dark energy', an 'attachment', a 'demon', 'blocked chakras', a 'past life wound'. Luckily, for an additional fee, or just to engender reciprocity or a bigger tip, they have just the thing to fix it. It might be done now, or it might require you come back for a few extra sessions to really get rid of it. It's all bullshit. Run.
🚩6. They Threaten You or Your Loved Ones
The psychic says something bad will happen to you or your loved ones if you don’t pay for help. Your loved one will be in a horrific car crash or you are being stalked by a psychopath- they've 'seen' it! But if you pay for a reading or additional services they can see more details or even give you 'protection' from these perils so you and/or your loved ones stay safe.
Worse, it may be an even more direct threat. They threaten Spiritual or energetic harm if you don't buy their services or products.
🚩7. They Are Your 'Best Friend'
You speak with your psychic frequently, calling or seeing each other often. They might even travel with you, tagging along with you on trips and outings in case you 'need' their guidance. You become completely dependant on them to 'guide' you through social interactions in order to avoid the 'wrong' people and only spend time with the 'right' ones. They tell you what they 'see' with every person you meet. Going to meet friends, a new group, or even a date? The 'psychic' tags along to read them quietly and gives you an assessment later. If the friends, group or date seemed to challenge them or voice any opinions that might threaten their hold on you, the psychic's reading on them is unfavorable. "Those people are 'negative'." "They are 'psychic vampires'". Meanwhile, the psychic keeps you close, and you them, because they've manipulated you into believing they are the only one you can trust.
The psychic is not your friend, they are there to either deliver a legitimate, professional service, or exploit and control you.
In many cases like these, you are paying for the psychic to be your friend, you just may not realize that's what is happening yet. You believe you are friends, but they have a completely different view of the relationship. Whether or not you are paying them, this is never a friend's role.
The psychic encourages this blurring of professional boundaries and ethics because they 'really like you and sincerely care about you'. The psychic makes you believe this isn't just a job for them, that when you talk with them they genuinely aren't even working, they're having fun with you, too! You're such a good soul, they just want to protect you! In fact, they were SENT here to protect you! You know they are a good person because they've said they do this to help people, to give back, because that's just who they are. You feel a deep connection to them and they are so easy to talk to! You can tell them everything (and do)- they're like your best friend, but better, because they just 'know' things about you and you feel seen.
You stop listening to your other friends or even your own intuition and only take the psychic's advice. You don't really question them asking for more money or notice how most every time you talk you end up paying for something new because you're friends. You don't notice they find something wrong with almost every new person you meet or want to spend time with, especially when they are not under the psychic's thrall. They've got your best interests at heart, you trust them, they would never hurt you or take advantage. Because you're friends.
True friendship is not transactional. It does not exploit. It does not manipulate. If you pay someone for a reading, they are not there as your friend. They are providing a professional service and ethical readers know the difference. You can enjoy your time together, laugh and think they're someone you'd want to be friends with, and they you. But if they cross the professional boundaries and encourage a friendship or relationship while they are still providing these services, or while giving them money to 'talk' for their advice, this is not friendship, it is scam.
🚩8. They Want To Provide Multiple Readings
Reputable readers will limit how often they will do readings for you. Most will refuse to allow new appointments from you after they've done a reading for at least a few months. This is to allow time for the last reading to play out. A reader who lets you schedule readings with them back to back, or invites or pressures you to have regular readings within days or weeks of your most recent reading is a big red flag. They want to set up weekly or monthly readings with you. They call or contact you the next day or the following week after a reading to say they have another message for you. They do not turn you down if you suggest another reading soon after you just had one.
🚩9. They Want Exclusivity
Look for readers and psychics who encourage you to get readings or guidance from any trusted person or professional you want. Red flags happen when a reader wants exclusivity, and discourages you from seeing other readers or psychics. This is a known tactic to start the process of manipulating you into becoming completely dependent on them for advice. It's also a tactic to limit your ability to receive contradicting advice that might make you doubt or question what they are telling you. Authentic readers do not wish to control you or limit who you speak to.
🚩10. They Do a Bait & Switch On A 'Free' Reading
They offer you a 'Free' or complementary first reading, only when you try to get the free reading they come up with a reason for why it's not totally free. They offer you a special 'discount' off their regular price instead, or a BOGO. They offer you a free reading but require you pay for their travel to meet you somewhere. They offer you a free reading but require a hidden service 'fee'. They offer a free reading but require you buy them a coffee, lunch or entry to an event. They offer a free reading but with strings.
Like some of the red flags already discussed, know exactly what the details of the booking or service are and what costs, hidden or otherwise there may be up front before you agree to the reading. Get it in writing when possible. Don't stay for a reading when there is a bait and switch or when terms change from what you agreed to.
Not all BOGO or 'Free' reading offers are scams. If the terms are clear, and conditions for how to obtain the free reading are transparent with no hidden or surprise changes at the last minute, this is often a legitimate way to attract new customers or to sweeten a sale. Just be sure to read the fine print and ask questions if an offer of a 'Free' reading doesn't give any additional information.
What are some common indicators of a psychic scam?
Common indicators of psychic scams include:
Guarantees of 100% accurate predictions
Unsolicited contact from the reader/psychic
Insistence on continued payments to remove curses or bring good fortune
Fear tactics to keep clients reliant on their services
How can I protect myself from falling victim to a psychic scam?
To protect yourself from psychic scams:
Do thorough research on the psychic/reader
Read reviews from reputable sources
Be cautious of unsolicited contact
Avoid readers who use fear tactics
Never share your personal financial information
How can I find a legitimate, trustworthy psychic?
To find a legitimate and trustworthy psychic:
Rely on recommendations from friends, family, or reputable sources
Do thorough research on the reader/psychic’s qualifications
Consider their professional associations
Ensure they follow a code of ethics
Trust your instincts when gauging their authenticity
Below are more resources for learning about Psychic Frauds and Scams. I urge you, no matter how well you think you are protected, no matter how much you believe you are not susceptible to being scammed, no matter how much you think you already know about psychic frauds, I promise, you will learn something here that will either help you, or help you help a friend or vulnerable family member. For these reasons, please read this post in its entirety, click on every link, listen to every podcast and watch every video embedded here.
This is an excellent resource for learning how to apply reason, critical thinking and discernment to your Spiritual practices. All episodes are truly well done, but here are several to get you started that talk about in some way psychic frauds. Listen to episodes: 142, 144, 150, 151, 156, 157, 158, 159, 167, 168
HOW TO REPORT
If you or a loved one has been threatened or pressured into paying money for psychic services, contact your local FBI field office.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.