How I Was Almost Scammed By a Fraudulent Fortuneteller, And Lived to Tell the Tale
This week's feature story in the dead tree edition of New Times gives you a crash course in the world of fortunetelling fraud. Inside, you'll get a basic field guide on the emotional games, legerdemain, and mindfuckery used to convince otherwise rational folks to willingly part with their money.
Sure, from the peanut gallery, it seems head-smackingly stupid for someone to throw cash at a stranger just because of a "curse." It's kind of like watching a slasher flick when the main character tiptoes into that one menacingly, obviously-bad news dark room - how can they be so dumb, right?
But, trust me, it's a whole different show when you're sitting across from a psychic. I know. While reporting the story, I spent time hanging out in fortunetelling shops, often submitting my own karma to a psychic strip search and prognosis.
Right up front, I'll say there are a lot of good people out there running fortunetelling outfits, many who either see the work as just good fun or as a needed release. That said, the first time I visited a fortuneteller in Broward, ten minutes hadn't passed before I was teed up for a scam.
It's not hard to find these joints in Broward. There are so many filling up anonymous shopping centers, they become another blip of scenery - pawn shop, gun shop, massage parlor, bail bonds, tarot cards. I pulled off a busy thoroughfare in Fort Lauderdale at about 3 p.m. last month. The sign outside offered palm readings. I knocked on the bolted glass door. A woman answered.
We'll call her "Ms. Jasmine." She was about 60, her face a moonscape of wrinkles and ridges, the voice coming with a slight Eastern Bloc-ish tinge. After hearing I wanted a reading, she led me through a front room furnished with leather couches and a large flat screen television into a small, un-air conditioned back room.
The space was splashed with a confused hodgepodge of religious iconography. There was the kind of Jesus headshot you'd see framed on the wall of your spinster aunt's hallway. An illustrated poster of the human body pointed out the chakras. Numerous rhinestone statutes of Egyptian Pharaohs were situated on shelves and a coffee table.
Ms. Jasmine and I parked down in a pair of facing wicker chairs. She explained the pricing structure: $20 bought me a peek at the past; $40, the past and future; and $60 paid for a full tarot reading.
I went with the middle option. The psychic then zeroed in on my pink, clammy mitts.