Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Let me tell your fortune, just for fun - (€180/hr please)

Last weekend, while out with friends, this humble blog was both commended and chided by a friend of mine. I can take criticism - I know sCAM/Homeopathy features regularly, but that's because (as happens often) it's the vulnerable who get scammed the worst (like the AIDS sufferers receiving homeopathy rather than AZTs) and yet a lot of people still see it as 'a harmless alternative'.

Mrs Dr*T was unable to give an opinion, reminding me of (worringly!) Wellington Grey's excellent cartoon, "When Geek relationships get old".

Still, as my friend makes up a double digit percentage of the readership, I should oblige.

Anyway, I find myself in Ireland on business and being Irish, am reminded at the funny dichotomy (or perhaps not) that exists with Ireland being a *very* Catholic country and yet also being *very* superstitious (as Doreen Marron would be quick to tell you - there's something about the eyes).

Which brings me to today's Irish Independent, in which there is an interesting story regarding phone Psychics:

Premium-rate psychics vow to fight €60 call cap

RegTel (the Irish Phone regulator) has released a draft code of practice which will do number of things - 2 important ones, as I see it:

1. Limit the maximum cost of call to €60 (currently €90), with a warning given when €30 is reached (Approx 12 minutes).
2. Clearly state that they are for 'entertainment purposes' only.

That works out at an astronomical €180 per hour! Without being crude, I can think of many forms of 'entertainment' which (I'm told) cost a lot less.

Obviously, Ireland's major premium rate psychic phoneline operator (Irish Psychics Live) will fight against it. How are they supposed to give practical, sensible, life-predicting advice in 24 minutes? (NHS Doctors get about 8 mins, just for comparison). Obviously, it's the people's needs they worry for, not the profits. (Which just for completeness, were €2.6 million on a turnover of €5.6 million for 2006, with some individual bills reaching over €2,500 - just for entertainment, you understand. The population of Ireland is 4.2 million).

Honest people - helping people. And taking their money. And not helping them. Turning vulnerable people into vulnerable, poor people, with no benefit to show for it (but just for their entertainment).

In a 'strange-but-true-thankfully-it-kind-of-came-good-in-the-end'-type story, the New York Post ran a story about the jailing of Psychic reader Tammy Mitchell, who managed to persuade a high-flying city banker that he had "evil in his life", and got him to cough up about $500,000 to sort it.

As the Irish would say, she saw him coming.

The penultimate paragraph is excellently understated:

Mitchell has been busted at least four other times for allegedly swindling people from New Jersey to Florida.

With all this money to be swindled off naive psychic believers, it's no wonder that few have taken up James Randi's $1 million Paranormal Challenge.

Certainly in Ireland, you can make a lot more from legally scamming people, without the rigmarole of "truth" and "proof" to worry about.


  1. 180 euros per hour? Ha, I'm in the wrong job. Good stuff Dr* T!

  2. The man in question is the father of my child. He is not a city banker. He is an investor in real estate and the stock market and lives nowhere near the city. He just happened to be in New York City for the first time since the 80's when he went into the psychic for 'fun'. I myself do not understand how he was able to believe such things (since I do not believe in angels, demons, heaven, or hell) but I am absolutely behind his decision to go public. The real problem here is that a great portion of the public doesn't view this as a crime and therefore people like Tammy Mitchell are able to keep practicing her trade. She knowlingly sells a service that is not real for a condition she invents (sounds like the traveling 'doctors' with their elixers) and she lies by claiming all monies will be returned after treatment. This is extortion and fraud. Please, I ask, instead of simply chiding Douglas Lonneker's choice to believe; consider looking forward and pointing out his bravery in coming forward and being part of the movement to put people like Tammy Mitchell behind bars and deny her the right to practice her trade anymore.

  3. Hi Gloria,

    Thanks for leaving a message.

    I agree with some of what you say - Tammy Mitchell is a fraud, in my view, all Psychics are. If not, why haven't they chosen to be the first person in the world to demonstrate they are not a fraud by taking up Randi's Millions.

    It's only extortion if she was intimidating him - as I understand it (although I wasn't there and could be wrong) this was money freely handed over.

    Although I didn't chide Douglas' choice to believe, it is crucial to the story that he did, which is the main thrust of the article - Quacks can only practice quackery if people give them money (and they do - lots of it).

    Did he really believe she would give him the money back? Really?

    Douglas is probably a lot wiser now and indeed Tammy Mitchell is behind bars. However, I have no doubt there will be more Douglas' and more Tammys in due course.

  4. Actually, she did threaten him. She threatened him using his belief in the evil; telling him that 'bad' things would happen to his family (daughter, sister, brother) even using their names. And no, she is not behind bars. Her bail was posted at $10,000; which she paid. After having squirreled away $500,000, what incentive does she have to stick around and attend her court date? Why, with the amount of money she was holding, was her bail so low? These are the problems ahead of Douglas Lonneker; how the judicial system deals with Tammy Mitchell and those like her in the future.

  5. Sorry. I have no sympathy for this Lonneker fool. And he's a fund manager? This idiot. $500,000 to some flim flam artist who said she can rid you of ghosts? And I am sorry Gloria, but this guy and all the other dumbbells who go to these places deserve what they get. I can see spending $50 out of curiosity but half a million? That's beyond being a victim. What a rube? I'm sure his power of intellect as evidenced here will serve him well as a fund manager. Lucky for me it won't be any of my money.

  6. Lonneker is indeed a fool, and a colossal one at that. I understand gloriamaria's defense of, and bias toward him being the father of her child, but give me, and everyone else, a break and let's see this situation for what it is. Lonneker is a victim of his own stupidity, and I have to agree with robert, Lonneker chose to give his money to this woman freely fearing "evil spirits." Is Lonneker watching too many scary movies? Evil spirits?! Puh-lease. C'mon now, let's all admit he did something very stupid, stop defending the guy, and move on. Beware of Lonneker, potential investors, he's a bit lacking in the decision making department, to say the least. I, along with many others, have zero sympathy for this guy. Psychics are all frauds, that's common knowledge. It's really as simple as that.

  7. Robert, and DXP, your ignorance is what allows these types of felonies to continue to run strong in a country that prides itself in fair business and protection.

    I came to know Douglas after this had happened, I actually received an email forward from a family member about his situation at the time. You're acting as though you've never been misled, never been cheated, as though your mental capacity is so far superior to those in question that this would never happen to you.

    It probably won't, now that you've heard the name Tammy Mitchell. You can thank Douglas for that.

    I've become very close friends with Douglas in the last few years, I've watched him gamble hundreds of dollars away from Lawyers (society's worshipped minds) over a game of backgammon and a few beers in a matter of minutes.

    He is as intelligent, giving, and dependable as they come. I'm sure it's just luck that afforded him $500,000 in liquid funds...

    Is it too difficult of an idea to believe that someone is skilled enough in convincing someone to do something for the sake of his loved ones? It's human nature, predictable, and exploitable.