6 Warning Signs That Your Tarot Reader May Be A Scam Artist

by Theresa Reed on July 20, 2011


It starts out innocently enough.

You walk into a modest, ordinary office for a tarot reading. The reader begins laying out the cards and chatting pleasantly but suddenly a dark look crosses her face.  With grave concern in her voice,  she takes your hand and starts to talk about the “negative energy” surrounding you. Suddenly her eyes become wide as she exclaims:  “someone has put something on you!  You’ve been cursed!”  You’re scared but secretly relieved.  Now you know why your life sucks.  It can’t be your choices – it has to be a curse!  It’s not your fault!

And that’s when the reader begins to lay it on thick like the worst sort of used car salesman. They begin imploring you to get a “cleansing” or “healing” (and of course, only they can do it for you).

It will “only” cost you $99.00.

Now if you are a vulnerable type (which is what the reader is hoping for), you may be frightened enough to pull that money out of your wallet on the spot and get your “healing”.  But guess what? It does not stop there.  Before long, you’ve spent a lot of dough and added a great deal of superstitious anxiety to your life.

You’ve just been conned.  Ouch.

But before you kick yourself for being a sucker, let me tell you this: it happens more than you know and many of the people who fall for this schtick are reasonably intelligent, normal folk.   And most people who work in the psychic arts are decent, hardworking, honorable and kind.  It’s the rare few that rip people off and give honest readers a bad name.

If you know the simple warning signs, you can minimize your risk and be able to walk away with dollars (and pride) intact.  Here’s what you need to watch out for:

  1. Fishing for information.  If the reader constantly asks you questions, they are not doing a reading.  You should be the one asking the questions, not them.
  2. Heavy handed solicitation.  Calling you at home, urging you to call them, trying to lure you in – any of these tactics are a huge red flag.  A reader should NEVER bother you for business.  You should only be going to a reader when YOU feel the need to go.  Period.
  3. Dubious marketing methods.  Years ago, I had a client who got three mysterious tarot cards in the mail along with a frightening letter from a reader who claimed that they had “special information” for them and they needed to call within 7 days or they would “risk losing a major opportunity”.  Of course, this was nothing more than a ruse to get the client to call a hotline and spend money they didn’t have.  A special offer is one thing – scary mail or “urgent” emails demanding your immediate attention are another.  If you get either, throw it in the trash and/or hit delete.
  4. The “curse” line.  If a reader begins to tell you about a curse or negative energy that someone “put on you”, stop the reading right there.  This is the oldest line in the book and a total crock.  No one has the power to put a curse on you.  Your problems stem from decisions or choices that you make in your life.  And you, only you, can change course at any time you want. To believe otherwise takes your personal responsibility away from you and puts all your personal power in the hands of others.
  5. Charging you large sums of money for a “cleansing” or “healing”.  I once met a woman who went to a local con artist who demanded she give her $6000.00 to “remove her depression”.  (Needless to say, she was still depressed and six thousand dollars poorer.)  No ethical reader would EVER charge you a big fee to remove a curse, cure “negative energy” or solve your problems.  EVER.  If you really do have major emotional issues, a honest reader would refer you to the proper professionals who can help you.
  6. Swearing you to secrecy.  If a reader tells you that you cannot tell anyone about your reading or it “won’t come true” this is a sign that they are not on the up and up.  You should be able to tell anyone you please about your reading and furthermore, you should be able to tape the reading if you wish.  This is a tarot reading, not some back alley drug deal – avoid readers who treat it like one.

These general warnings should protect you from getting ripped off by one of these low-lifes.  But this bears saying again: these people are in the minority.  Most of the time, a tarot reading is a positive, fun and empowering experience and most readers and psychics sincerely want to help you.

Take your time to find a reader that you like and trust.  And always remember this: you are the only one who holds the power to your life.  Don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.



What are warning signs you look for?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2011

special thanks to taoxproductions for the image


Sign up for my newsletter and get free bi-monthly content on tarot, astrology, and more.

I respect your email privacy

Stacy LaRosa July 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I had this happen to me in Manhattan when I was in my early 20’s! I was to wrap $20 bills in a weird cross formation in a white handkerchief (shows you how long ago THAT was!), sleep with it under my pillow and go back to her with more $$. Luckily, I listened to my gut & did not do any of it & never went back. You described to a T everything she did! Great heads up article!

admin July 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Hey Stacy,

Thanks for sharing your story. I had a similar situation happen in Manhattan years ago. A friend took me to a reader who gave me a decent enough reading but then she said I would “get very ill” and “miss meeting Mr. Right” if I did not get a cleansing for my negative energy (only $99.00! LOL). I actually laughed in her face.

We left and my girlfriend told me that she got one of those “cleansings” and it made her feel better. I told her “well it didn’t work because you are one of the most messed up people I know!” We both laughed our asses off. My girlfriend never went back to this woman. Neither did I.

And for the record, I did meet Mr. Right and we’ve been together for 20 blissful years.


Karen Hager July 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

You are right on, Theresa! This should be required reading. If someone tells you they know you better than you know yourself, or if they try to scare you … run!

Melissa July 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Theresa! I see….I see a dark cloud following you…like PigPen….in Charlie Brown…would cost only $400 to remove it!

That’s what I was told in Chicago. I told her to suck it. 😀


admin July 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

LOL Melissa! I wish I was a fly on the wall when you told her to suck it!

Ginny Hunt July 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Clearly some readers are still doing this sort of thing and unfortunately people are being taken in by it. If this happens to anyone, I would urge them to go another step and report it to the authorities. This is fraud and sometimes harassment, such as when they call someone at home with veiled threats of dire consequence, and it is illegal.

Thanks for this post Theresa.

admin July 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Hi Ginny,

Yes – there are those who still practice this deceptive con. It’s absolutely disgusting to me. Sadly, most people won’t report it to the authorities because they are too embarrassed. 🙁


Chea July 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Thanks for posting this. It is unfortunate that not only do con artists who masquerade as tarot readers not only rip off people, but have become the excuse for cities (including San Francisco) to enact some

Chea July 20, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Oops, don’t know how that happened! As I was saying, SF and other cities have enacted laws that require tarot readers to have to pay extra high businesses licenses and be fingerprinted, which is really unfair. So the few con artists are an excuse and really have made it harder for the honest reader. There’s a lot that can be said about prejudicial laws towards tarot readers, but I’ll leave it at that.

I had a client once who actually expected me to charge more and suggest remedies like a special bath to ward off “bad spirits”. She was incredulous and kind of disappointed when I told her I didn’t do that, and that she didn’t have any bad spirits dogging her either… So it’s interesting to note that there are people who kind of encourage the con artists. And also that there is a kind of gray area, for instance in some botanicas, where people expect to get a reading, and also to buy some spiritual remedy as a part of it. I don’t think the readers in most places like that are the real con artists, though.

admin July 21, 2011 at 7:05 am


Most of the people who work in occult shops or botanicas are pretty decent – although there are scammers in those places too.

And for the record, there are people who want a mystical way to work on their issues – for example, if they are pagan. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with the readers that put fear into a client and encourage dependence so that they can bilk them.


Hilary July 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm

This happened to me quite recently at a street fair. The reading was going along well enough, and then she started in with the “your parents were cursed which is why you have so many relationship problems” and the lighting the special candles got mentioned… I told her I had my own spiritual community and if lighting candles for cleansing was necessary, I would have them help me. She dropped the subject and continued with my reading. I was nice, but firm. That usually works. If it does not, head for the door. I happen to believe that curses are real. But not in this context. If you believe you are cursed, go to a spiritual advisor, not a tarot reader. Sometimes they are one in the same. Sometimes not. You cannot assume your tarot reader is “woo-woo” simply because they are a tarot reader. (I hope all that made sense.)

There is enough room for all of us in the tarot reading business. It’s a shame that some people decide to go about it the wrong way, and make legitimate readers look bad. Employing tactics such as cold reading, money for spell work only the reader can perform for you, and other methods reek of desperation. Sometimes I offer some basic spellworking advice, but that’s only if I feel moved to during the reading, if the client is open to it, and I never tell them to buy stuff with me (hell, if I happen to have an applicable item, I will simply give it to them, like a small pink candle for self-love, etc.). I give them a materials list and send them on their way. Anything that causes co-dependency or neediness is something I avoid. I want to empower my clients. I don’t want them clawing at my screen door all strung out for their next tarot “fix.”

abbee July 21, 2011 at 12:45 am

“I give them a materials list and send them on their way. Anything that causes co-dependency or neediness is something I avoid. I want to empower my clients. I don’t want them clawing at my screen door all strung out for their next tarot ‘fix.'”

You’ve nailed it. 😀 😀 😀

admin July 21, 2011 at 7:07 am

Hey Hilary


I give them a materials list and send them on their way. Anything that causes co-dependency or neediness is something I avoid. I want to empower my clients. I don’t want them clawing at my screen door all strung out for their next tarot “fix.”


Hilary July 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm

“I don’t want them clawing at my screen door all strung out for their next tarot ‘fix.'” <—- furthermore, these are the kinds of people who then turn to the cards to ask what kind of toilet paper to use. It gives them the idea that they have no responsibility for the action they take in their life. It makes for extremes such as freezing people in fear of moving one way or another, or the opposite, a risk-taker who thinks whatever they do doesn't matter. It fosters a dangerous way of thinking.

Amethyst July 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Not just for Tarot. This was also an issue when I was a therapist/psychologist!

Is it bad that I refer to people who keep running to Tarot readers, Rune readers, and psychics “Psychic Junkies?” It doesn’t feel good, but I don’t know what else to say!

abbee July 21, 2011 at 12:33 am

I find myself continually texting my querents about my schedule & whereabouts for a reading, because that’s the only time I’ll be available, anyway, & it’s annoying sometimes how even if I’ve already informed them, they still ask me when they can meet me. Haha.

Sara July 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

#1 isn’t always a tactic of a scam artist. i’ve read that mary greer asks a lot of questions during a reading. i think it helps to ask questions to get a feel for the querent to better interpret the cards for them.

admin July 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Hi Sara!

Thanks for your comment. Very true – asking questions can create clarity for the reader in some cases.


Amethyst July 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Oh, my! This happened to a lady who came to me, only her “psychic” told her that a spell had been put on her boyfriend. Apparently, the other woman he was seeing was a witch! Oh, no! But it was okay, because for hundreds and hundreds of dollars she was enlisting the help of her own voodoo/witch friend who could removed the spell from the boyfriend and banish the other woman/witch.

Um, yeah. I told her to run away. She didn’t see me again and is still seeing her “psychic.” So sad.

Doreen Van Boxtel July 26, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Yes, people have told me about readers offering them a chance to get rid of negativity and curses for a one off cost of $500.00, which is totally rediculous. Also, $100.00 to walk around with some sage to cleanse the person’s house. It is sad that these people are relying on peoples fear and profiting from it.
Love and Light

Rozonda July 27, 2011 at 4:43 am

Hi Theresa. I love your post and I would like to get your permission to quote from it ina post I’m preparing about this issue at my own blog. I’m a Spanish professional Tarot reader and owna blog (address above) in which I address Tarot issues of many kinds. Of course I will mention your name and link to you. Greetings.

Houngan Matt July 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

So, for those of us over on the ADR (African Diasporic Religions) side of the table, there are a few little tiny issues that should be addressed in terms of the fairness of a reader and just how quickly you should run away…

There are times, for us, that a reading (not tarot, but in my temple lineage a deck of 32 playing cards) will indicate a form of speciallized treatment, be it a lave tet (3 day rite named for the first part, a ritual head washing) or other, perhaps less involved or convoluted treatments…. BUT, and the big thing, while I have been hired to perform a reading, that is all I have been hired for. A client whose reading may indicate specific treatments or solutions is WELCOME to go wherever they please to have those performed (if they choose to have them performed) and it is not my job to even whisper a moment’s suggestion that *I* be the person to perform them. All that person has paid me to tell them is what the reading shows me; if they choose to come to me for the treatments that’s a different matter.

These aren’t inexpensive things, incidentally; they are also NOT something everyone needs to experience or undergo. I have seen Lave Tet advertised (the real one, the 3 day rite) for anywhere from $750 to $1500; there are times though when a reading will directly say that the person needs that form of treatment.

Cleansing baths ARE something that Vodou clergy frequently make use of; they’re a part of our religion… that said, they’re a *cheap* part of our religion and should never be seen for an astronomically high price (I mean they should be about 30 to 50 bucks, and they’re not something every person needs nor needs every day) Simple baths, which are usually good enough, can be a recipe I just give to the person and send them home with instructions on how to make it; they pay the grocery store for the ingredients and they do it themselves. 😉

Mostly, if there’s anything they need to know in addition to what the reading spells out, we’re gonna tell people to go home, light their own candle, and talk to their own spirits. On their own time, with their own supplies, and without the paid intercession or assistance of clergy people. Its just not needed except in dire circumstances, and even then… when they come to me for a reading, they get A READING, and nothing more. If they want the treatment specified, they can go to any Houngan or Mambo to receive it… and if THEY ask me if I can do it, I’ll tell them yes but I’ll also tell them to go home, meditate on their reading for a few days before setting the appointment with me, if at that time they still want me to do work for them. The environment of a reading is one that can be prone to suggestion and manipulation, so I want that person to choose with a clear head and not just because they’re sitting in front of me at the moment they ask. I want them to go home, think about their reading, ask around about my reputation as a clergy person, ask around about OTHER’s reputations as clergy people, and be able to make a fully informed decision before they open their wallets.

Yes, sometimes even suggesting such a thing when it comes up in a reading makes me personally incredibly wary… my own mom fell for a reader in New Hampshire, calling herself Precious (long before the movie 😉 ) who had some genuine skill with her cards and was able to start pulling out personal information… but, at the same time she was using her gifts to scam people, even going so far as telling my mother for $3,000, Precious would build a life size wax simulacrum of my mother to “transfer all the curses and bad luck” to the dummy. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

We’ve got plenty of con people in the religions though… there’s a guy who has you photocopy your palm for him for 100$, you mail it to him and he mails it back with all sorts of symbols drawn in (always if the client is a woman it seems there’s an eye in the middle of their palm showing that they’re “gifted” and that this man can teach them how to use it) and of course we’ve got people who will say “The spirits are on you!” and attempt to clean you up… it can be hard to spot all the hints, but your list of 6 is pretty much right on target. 😉

admin July 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

Hello there

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very interesting insights.

The “life size wax image” – that’s one I never heard yet.

Houngan Matt July 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Yeah, I about keeled over in a mix of utter horror and laughter.

Jane Hansen July 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Thank you so much for this! Although I agree that #1 asking a lot of questions can be a red flag, it can also part of a legitimate reading, especially when the client doesn’t come in with a specific question. Often, readers have to check in and make sure the client is understanding what they are saying.

I’ll be linking to this article from our ethics page. We often get the scam survivors coming into our store (we do readings) with their stories and experiences. The one I can’t get out of my mind was the woman who was struggling with guilt and depression after a miscarriage. The bunko/scam reader who she was too afraid to name told her she was cursed and she saw dead babies floating all around her. I think she said the fee requested to remove the curse was $900.

This is why we make it such a point that all of our readers subscribes to our code of ethics and why we like it if they have their own. I recommend any reader with a website to post their Code of Ethics and keep it out there to educate people and then these scammers won’t get any business.

Kayla August 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

I wanted to say thank you for the article! As a professional reader I always give out these warning signs… I have had several clients who come to me looking answers but too afraid to talk to me and want me to just ‘read their minds’ because of experiences like this. Well done!!

<3 Kayla

Leah November 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

I like this article and agree completely with it. Except, I usually ask along the way if what I am reading does make sense to them in the context of their questions or problem they want to approach. I do this because once the reading starts I am downloading so much information and keep talking (with not much I can do about this part, I am channeling), and I want to know if they can follow me.

Also, I have a friend who is very opposed to Tarot readings. He was told by some Tarot reader a long time ago that he has to divorce his wife. I am friends with him and his wife. Matter of fact is they went through a hard time in their marriage and struggled a lot at the time, but they are a wonderful couple now once they solved their problems. Whatever the Tarot reader at this time was looking at, it certainly was not a good outcome.

Lori January 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I truly wish these types of readers did not exist, there is a huge difference between someone inexperienced and someone deliberately on the make. Number 6 would have my alarm bells ringing even if this reading was at least averagely accurate, most tarot readers survive on word of mouth, the internet is changing that a bit just now but still word of mouth is necessary for survival in any line of business.
I have a friend a natural intuitive who hasn’t began learning to express her gifts, I am currently tutoring her in the subtle energies and tarot reading, early on she decided to contact an other psychic and asked me what I thought of them. I had a look at the psychics page and intuitively had warning bells go off in my ears (I so hate when that happens) the woman was putting the hard sell on her, I suggested she ask if she could test her by having a free question answered. Needless to say the answer she received was rather ambiguous and the woman offered to heal the rift between she and her husband for a moderate sum. She has never been married, is long term single but in the photo’s on her FB page she is with her similarly aged brother and one could easily mistake that for her husband.

Previous post:

Next post: