How ‘Psychics’ Scam the Desperate

How ‘Psychics’ Scam the Desperate October 24, 2012

When I wrote a few months ago about an article by James Randi that exposed Theresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium,” as another likely con artist, a couple people showed up several months later to give the usual arguments: Who was I to question this woman when she just makes people feel better, etc. You’ve heard them all. Dodai Stewart from Jezebel got the same things sent to her in email, along with a bunch of other emails from desperate people who had lost loved ones. For some reason, these people thought they were contacting Caputo:

I would like to make an appointment to see Theresa Caputo, I lost my brother recently and would like to see her personally…

Hi my name is Pamela, I lost my 8 year old daughter 6 months ago to a brain tumor and would like to be placed on the waiting list….

I have watched your show since it came on, I have the need to hear from my son, it has been 10 years and I cannot say his name without crying.

You can almost feel the heartbreak. These are the people who fall victim to psychic frauds and it’s not hard to understand why. As Stewart notes, Caputo tells them the things anyone would want to hear:

The things Caputo usually tells people — don’t be sad, embrace life, know that the person who has passed is with you — are the kind of things anyone might say to a grieving person. When Caputo was on Anderson Cooper’s show, she claimed she felt the soul of a sister who had passed away. After a woman in the audience volunteered the information that her sister had died, Caputo asked the woman if she and her sister looked a lot alike. The woman nodded, but it felt like an educated guess: There’s a very very good chance that sisters look alike, no? Caputo went on to talk about the sister playing with the woman’s hair — again, something many sisters do, and the woman in the audience had long, straight hair, the kind you would braid and play with. But you know, I get it. People believe because they want to believe, because that’s what faith is all about.

And all this for the low price of $400 per half hour. I don’t know how she sleeps at night. This stuff isn’t just harmless fun. Whether it’s some faith-healing con man like Peter Popoff or fake psychics like this, real people are hurt by it. They prey on people at their most weak and desperate and get rich doing it.

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