Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram A 51-year-old Melbourne woman, believed to be of Greek background, lost almost $90,000 over seven months to a fake clairvoyant, after she spotted his ad in a local newspaper. An Alphington woman, who wished to stay anonymous, told the Herald Sun she visited a fake spiritualist named Habib Bamba in March this year, in the northern suburb of Fawkner, for a $50 consultation. The woman became convinced the spiritualist was legitimate when he talked about her medical problems in his reading. The woman made several payments of thousands of dollars at a time for ‘spiritual purposes’ to Habib Bamba, as he convinced her she could rid her of ‘evil spirits’ if she sent him repeated cash instalments of up to $5000. Bad things would happen to her if she stopped the payments, the fake medium had said. By the time the woman reported the case to police and Consumers Affairs Victoria, the psychic had disappeared from his home. On the website of Habib Bamba, one-on-one private consultations in clairvoyant readings are offered, as well as “psychic advice to assist clients in finding clarity and purpose on their life journey”. The spiritualist Bamba was not available on his mobile phone when Neos Kosmos tried to reach him. Following the case of the Alphington woman, director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Claire Noone warned people to be wary of scammers posing as psychics, clairvoyants and fortune-tellers, as numerous Victorians fell victim to psychic scams this year. “Scammers prey on people’s vulnerabilities, insecurities and unhappiness,” Dr Noone said. She also said psychic and clairvoyant scammers approach victims by post, email, telephone or even face-to-face, to foreshadow a positive upcoming event or claim that the victims are in some sort of trouble and offer a solution. According to The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission SCAMwatch website, this solution could be winning lottery numbers, a lucky charm, the removal of a ‘curse’ or ‘jinx’, or ongoing ‘protection’. The scammer will tell victims that they will help them in return for a fee. They also use fear tactics, by warning the victim of a false future event and then promising to protect them from it in return for ongoing payments, or invoke a curse if the payment is refused. “Scammers go to great lengths to make themselves seem legitimate,” Dr Noone said. In the 2012-13 financial year, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) received 13 reports of psychic, clairvoyant and fortune-telling scams. With many cases going unreported, real figures are likely to be higher. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokesperson told Neos Kosmos that scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. So far in 2013, the commission has received 123 scam contacts with $481,709 reported lost, the spokesperson said. Last year, the ACCC received 125 reports with $444,895 reported lost, compared to 72 scam contacts with $13,987 reported lost received by ACCC in 2011. CAV director said people should remember that the psychic or clairvoyant scammers may try to convince their victims that their insights are genuine by telling them something from the life of the victim. “Ask yourself: is what they are telling me general and could it be true about anyone? They may also tell you something about yourself that you mentioned previously or that they gathered from another source, such as personal details you posted on a social networking website,” CAV director Claire Noone said in her press release. If you have been approached or have sent money to a psychic or clairvoyant who you think is a scammer, and want to report a scam or learn more about how to identify it, call 1300 55 81 81 131 450 or visit www.scamwatch.gov.au For advice and information in Greek and languages other than English, call 131 450 and say the English name of your language, then ask the interpreter to call 1300 55 81 81.