Family loses $85,000 to con artists posing as psychics
Published Thursday, September 3, 2015 12:02PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 4, 2015 5:44PM EDT
Edmonton police are warning people about a con involving fraudulent astrologers and psychic readers after one local family was swindled out of $85,000.
Investigators say that hundreds of people have fallen victim to the fraudsters since April. Police say the suspects have duped their clients into believing that they have been cursed with black magic and witchcraft.
Many victims were "pressured" into handing over between $2,000 and $15,000 to the self-proclaimed fortune tellers, and one family lost as much as $85,000.
Police say it has been "difficult" to keep tabs on the fraudsters.
"They're in and out of town rather quickly. They're setting up shop; they're distributing posters and pamphlets in stores," Sgt. Steve Sharpe told CTV Edmonton.
They believe the con artists have since left the country.
"Often these individuals are on a visitor's visa and quickly disappear when they believe they could be caught," Const. Harpreet Jhinjar said in a statement released on Thursday.
Police say the suspects are from outside the country and came most recently from South Asia.
Pamphlets and posters advertising the scam have been seen outside grocery stores, restaurants and parked vehicles.
The operation is usually run out of a rented home
Investigators say that requests for money up front to perform healing rituals, or plans requiring thousands of dollars as offerings for prayers and other ceremonies are indicators of fraud.
Police say the suspects also make unrealistic promises to solve personal and financial problems, and claim to be able to rid their clients of black magic and witchcraft. They say many of those who have fallen under the spell of the fraudsters do not want to come forward. But investigators say their information is vital to locating the suspects.
"You don’t have to feel embarrassed," said Jhinjar. "These fraudsters are experienced and have stolen money from a lot of people."
Similar scams have been uncovered in other cities across Canada, including: Edmonton, Calgary Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver.
Edmonton police are working in collaboration with the Canadian Border Service Agency to track down the scammers.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact the Edmonton Police Service at 1-780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at -1-800-222-8477 or online at www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV Edmonton's Ashley Molnar