Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Do "Psychics" Do It?

Stories like this one never cease to amaze me. On the one hand, there's this belief in the magical community that spiritual services should always be free, and on the other there are "psychic advisors" out there raking in tons of cash. Such is this case involving a lawsuit between Charles Silviera of Long Island and Ava Miller, who served as his psychic advisor.

Silveira claims that he met 32-year-old Ava T. Miller online in 2007, on the web site of a psychic service. After several months of 'consultations' on the site, the suit says, Miller asked for his phone number, telling him that he had a 'spiritual problem' that needed work.

The work it apparently needed involved paying Miller $170,000 so that she could buy large quantities of gold. According to the lawsuit, other important things that Silveira needed to pay for included the house for Miller, bonus payments for getting supplies, and over $15,000 for a trip to a 'spiritually significant location' in Florida.

I totally get that Miller is a fraud and that this man deserves to get his money back, but what is so amazing about the case is that, apparently, if Miller's advice were genuine this is what it would have been worth. The house in question cost $700,000 and with the other expenses added on top of that the total is around a million dollars. Is this really the price that magical services should command on the open market?

There are plenty of genuine magicians in the world like myself. How is it that all of the money being funneled into spiritual services is going to these jokers? I guess it really is true that a good salesperson can market anything and a bad one can have trouble selling the best product in the world. It's a shame, because fakers give us all a bad name with their ridiculous confidence games.

Just to be clear, if anyone out there happens to have a million dollars sitting around and wants some magical help from a real magician I would be happy to oblige. When I cast spells they usually work, and better still I don't pocket money that's supposed to go for supplies and expenses.

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Rob said...

Here's the problem. It's difficult, but not impossible, to find someone who has a metaphysical problem they'd be willing to pay 1 million dollars to solve. It's also difficult, but not impossible, to find someone who has one million dollars. The odds of finding both things in a single person are astronomical.

If you want the million, what you need is a mark. A person who happens to have a million dollars and can be tricked into thinking they have a metaphysical problem severe enough to warrant spending that kind of money.

Usually, with the exception of entertainers, people who have earned a million dollars are smart enough not to get tricked out of it. So when picking your mark look for entertainers, people who've inherited their money, and people who've gotten lucky, like through unskilled gambling. You also might want to look into people in low to average paying jobs that have access to large amounts of cash (six figures or higher) from their employer.

It's not so much salesmanship as targeting rubes. These people don't find folks with metaphysical problems and then bleed them dry. What they do is target dim people with money and then convince them they have a problem necessitating their services.

Look at it this way. Suppose you have a little witch doctoring shop set up. You cast some love spells, do some divination, the occasional revenge spell. Mostly walk-ins, some referrals, you get $20 or $50 or $100 here and there. It's enough to pay the bills on the shop and get by. And you just wait for a stupid person with money to walk in, and when they do, it's a five figure, maybe six figure payday. Maybe you get one of those folks every year or two. That's all you would need to make it worthwhile.

Scott Stenwick said...

If you want the million, what you need is a mark.

Yeah, I do know how the confidence trade works. I just find it amazing that it keeps working, even as these folks get exposed over and over again.

Usually, with the exception of entertainers, people who have earned a million dollars are smart enough not to get tricked out of it.

It's true that a lot of entrepreneurs who strike it rich are halfway to being con artists themselves, and as a result make pretty poor marks - they already know most of the tricks. On the other hand, most people who have a spare million dollars these days didn't earn it. It doesn't take any brains to inherit a fortune.