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How Romanian Fortune Tellers Used Google To Fleece Victims 140

Posted by timothy
from the hey-dad-take-this-as-a-free-lesson dept.
Hentes writes "The internet has made many things easier, but unfortunately this also includes crime: it seems that nowadays not even people wanting to know their future are safe from fraud. Two fortune tellers are being investigated, after the Romanian police uncovered that they have utilized some extraordinary help in their clairvoyant acts. The pair used information collected from internet search and social networks to gain the trust of their customers, claiming that they could see their personal data through their crystal ball. In some cases, they also used high-tech surveillance techniques such as hidden cameras and phone tapping. But they didn't stop at merely spying on their victims: their most bizarre case involved a scuba diver dressed as a monster." Nice to know that internet-based fraud isn't limited to motivational speakers with real-estate seminars and other get-rich-quick flim-flam.
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How Romanian Fortune Tellers Used Google To Fleece Victims

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  • by xrayspx (13127) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:15AM (#39906325) Homepage
    "it seems that nowadays not even people wanting to know their future are safe from fraud"

    If you pay someone money and expect them to tell your future, you will never be safe from fraud. In fact, as your palm reading crystal adviser, I sense...fraud...in your future.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's the joke.

      • Ever since the dawn of time there have been suckers

        And that's the only reason why con artists thrive all through the millennia

        The Net is a tool, use by everyone, including the con artists - and the suckers?

        Well ... suckers are _still_ falling into the Nigerian money transfer scam, don't they?

        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:55AM (#39906729) Journal
          "It is immoral to let a sucker keep his money" [wikipedia.org]. Apparently, the Romanian scammer fortune-tellers agree.
          • Thanks. I've used that quote for years without knowing it's source.

            BTW I agree.

          • by Fixadate (2635473)
            Look at the other side too - people at this modern age still go to these people to know their future - its just not common people but big business houses too - its amazing that " Fortune telling" has become a big industry now - lot many are making money i mean really good money out of it - cause there are dumb people who are ready with their cheque books - Just think - last year a fortune seller in the city died of car accident - Well only if he really knew the future -
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:16AM (#39907093)

          "Well ... suckers are _still_ falling into the Nigerian money transfer scam, don't they?"

          Not to mention talking snakes, virgin mothers and bearded men in the sky.

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            To be fair, nobody actually has evidence *against* any of those (yeah, yeah, can't prove a negative etc.) and they're not an ongoing phenomena so can't really be tested at all. On the other hand psychics of all stripes have been fleecing suckers throughout history* and not one has ever been proven effective. Tip: when hiring a psychic be sure you ask them why they haven't yet claimed the million-dollar prize that's been waiting for years for the first person to demonstrate paranormal abilities that can s

      • by cusco (717999)
        I hear a "Woosh" in your future . . .
    • by F69631 (2421974) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @03:45AM (#39906557)

      I'm an engineer and been atheist my whole life, so I don't believe in horoscopes/crystals/palm reading/etc... However, I've found that I immensely enjoy occasional tarot sessions. I don't believe any of that outside those sessions but every once in a while, it's nice to meet someone more spiritual than I am, light a few candles, smoke a bit of tobacco from a bong, engage in the whole tarot ritual (sliding fingers on the deck, etc.), have her read the cards for me and then reflect on how to interpret that all based on my history and expectations for the future.

      It's almost therapeutic to completely suspend your disbelief every once in a while and get in touch with the spiritual side (I think that there is a certain mental state that every human - no matter how skeptic, etc. - can achieve if they want to... and it's pretty pleasant, really). As long as you keep it at that and don't ever start to think that you could actually make important decisions based on all that, it's pretty much the most harmless source of enjoyment that there is.

      So, if people want that and what they get is that someone wiretaps their phones, installs hidden cameras to their apartment, etc... it's not okay to say "Well, what did they expect? Of course they're going to get scammed!"

      • "It's almost therapeutic to completely suspend your disbelief every once in a while..."

        True, and I completely agree with the general sentiment of what you say.

        But when someone says it's real, they (not a joke) imply a warranty, and fraud charges are the frequent result.

        If it is clearly stated that the service is "for entertainment purposes only", and no other claims are made, then it's a perfectly legitimate operation. It's the others that run afoul of our standards of business.

        If it * IS * labeled "for entertainment only", then you can decide for yourself at what level you prefer to

        • Can we require "for entertainment only" to be inscribed on a plaque over every church entrance?

          In all seriousness though, I think there may well be something to be said for good priests/psychics/astrologers/etc. I would say one of the marks of a really good practitioner, of the sort that can get repeat customers for years or decades on end, is the ability to consistently give good advice. That's a rare skill that modern society doesn't really give recognition to. One could even argue that the ability to

          • Again, there is nothing here I disagree with, but at the same time, I think there is a legitimate case to be made for protecting the unwary or unsuspecting from charlatans.

            Not all self-proclaimed "psychics" are benevolent, for example. Many of them have been exposed as scam artists who prey on the gullible. Of course, evangelists have been known to do the same... and astrologers too.

            That is why I think a warning is appropriate: if you are warned that there is no scientific basis for claims of truth or
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Zapotek (1032314)
        Let me guess...lonely geek has a crush on pretty tarrot reader, right?
      • by RogL (608926)

        I'm an engineer and been atheist my whole life, so I don't believe in horoscopes/crystals/palm reading/etc... However, I've found that I immensely enjoy occasional tarot sessions. I don't believe any of that outside those sessions but every once in a while, it's nice to meet someone more spiritual than I am, light a few candles, smoke a bit of tobacco from a bong, engage in the whole tarot ritual (sliding fingers on the deck, etc.), have her read the cards for me and then reflect on how to interpret that all based on my history and expectations for the future.

        It's almost therapeutic to completely suspend your disbelief every once in a while and get in touch with the spiritual side (I think that there is a certain mental state that every human - no matter how skeptic, etc. - can achieve if they want to... and it's pretty pleasant, really). As long as you keep it at that and don't ever start to think that you could actually make important decisions based on all that, it's pretty much the most harmless source of enjoyment that there is.

        Sounds like you use tarot readings as a more-fun therapy session: reflecting on what's going on in your life, where you'd like to head, and what to do about it. As long as you treat it more like a campy discussion & less like mystical powers, you're in good shape.

      • by Zaelath (2588189)

        I'm an engineer and have been straight my whole life, so I don't believe in rimming/rusty trombones/etc.... However, I've found that I immensely enjoy occasional gay sex. I don't believe any of that outside those sessions, but every once in a while, it's nice to meet someone gayer than I am, like a few candles, smoke a bit of tobacco from a bong, engage in the whole gay sex ritual (sliding fingers on the sack, etc.), have him toss my salad and then reflect on how to interpret that all based on my history an

      • It's almost therapeutic to completely suspend your disbelief every once in a while and get in touch with the spiritual side (I think that there is a certain mental state that every human - no matter how skeptic, etc. - can achieve if they want to... and it's pretty pleasant, really).

        Of course it's pleasant. Why do you think the majority of people are religious? Being an atheist is HARD because you can't abdicate responsibility to the man in the sky/tarot cards/etc. Not saying that you believe, but now you see how seductive it can be...

        Opiate of the masses, indeed.

        As long as you keep it at that and don't ever start to think that you could actually make important decisions based on all that, it's pretty much the most harmless source of enjoyment that there is.

        Casinos are always packed to the gills with people. Do you *really* think they all see it as nothing more than entertainment and fully expect to lose all the money they put on the table?

        So yes, if you have the right mindset

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by mrmeval (662166)

      No it's only a foregone conclusion for inebriated halfwits who'd choose their doctor from a police line up of serial killers.

      The better ones are the ones that you get to know usually through a network of acquaintances. They've been practicing for at least a decade after apprenticing that long. They will have a business license. They have a fixed place of business and fixed prices.They will do standard horoscope and can do the base 12 math. They work with you on interpretation and the results get better as y

      • Come and see. Someone in the middle of being long grifted.

        When did you first begin to trust your 'fortune teller'?

        What was the first 'slightly preposterous' thing they got you to buy into?

        Would you like a free personality test?

    • Is this even new?

      When I tell some, they have to watch their PC better, against trojans and virusses, I get the reaction: "who cares? it's only data!" or "I don't got anything to hide" or "There is not that much important on my PC"; While it's THEIR privacy which is at stake and THEIR pc is getting (ab)used to breach the privacy/security of others.

      Lots of people just don't care anymore about stuff which they don't understand; as long "as it works" it's allright for them ..

    • If you pay someone money and expect them to tell your future, you will never be safe from fraud. In fact, as your palm reading crystal adviser, I sense...fraud...in your future.

      Is it actually a fraud when any sane and reasonable person knows what is going on?

      • Defrauding mentally ill or retarded people is still fraud.

        • I was thinking more of people complaining that "How was I supposed to know that that man was a fraud? He said he wasn't." Since there is no chance of any claim to having supernatural powers being true, it must be an act, by definition. People don't seem to be suing theaters and TV stations for actors not being the characters they play too often, they just sit back and enjoy the show like everybody else does.
  • by msgmonkey (599753) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:16AM (#39906333)

    After finding out there are people buying spell casting services overy ebay in their thousands this is not surprising at all. A fool and his/her money is quickly seperated.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should always attribute your quotations. That's Steve Jobs, right?

      • He never actually said it in public. Trade secret, see.

        • by azalin (67640)
          The trick is to make the fool happy with his choice and to inspire more fools to follow along his path.
      • Steve Jobs: 'A fool and their money were lucky to get together in the first place!'
        • Steve Jobs: 'A fool and their money were lucky to get together in the first place!'

          Pluralis majestatis?

          Ah, right, the customer is king (but as we believe in democracy, the king is allowed spend money, but otherwise must be completely disempowered).

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:19AM (#39906339)
    Really it's just an update of what has been going on since at least the mid 1800s. Back then they would question friends and relatives and check newspapers and birth records. Even the diver isn't all that different from having some one dress up as a ghost or having a veil on a string dance around. People believe even lame gags because they want to believe. The internet like with most things just makes it quicker and easier.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:22AM (#39906347)

    And they would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for those darn meddling kids!

  • Superstition and religion will always find a platform. Don't get "the Internet" involved in this please. If people want to believe something, it's their right and if they want to pay money to others to tell them what to believe, it's their right too. If some person or group is able to make a career out of that, fine. As long as they keep it private and don't change the law over it, or start wars, I don't see a problem with that.
  • by Biff Stu (654099) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:44AM (#39906391)

    after first thinking the article was about Romulan fortune tellers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:52AM (#39906423)

    Olga sits at her desk with her clients holding hand in a circle around her Ipad ...the candle flickers....One of the clients desperately wants to speak to Steve about why suddenly his Mac Book Pro is vulnerable to the "curse of the Open Windows"

    Olga says she senses an evil presence in the room and that Steve is telling her that there is something very wrong with her clients Mac Book Pro and that it will only be free from evil when he removes boot camp and returns to the pure essence of Apple!

    Olga takes her 200 dollar malware removal fee, 20% of which is paid to Symantec for setting her up in business.

    I see many scenes like this happening to Mac users in the future.

  • Yes... (Score:4, Funny)

    by meglon (1001833) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:53AM (#39906427)
    ... because the fortune teller trade has always before been a bastion of honesty and integrity, and has never been the butt of scurrilous rumors of fraud.
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:56AM (#39906441) Journal

    Every and all fortune teller is committing fraud - these were just higher-tech than the rest.

  • "As well as fraud the pair are also facing charges under the National Security Act for using illegal professional surveillance equipment," What is professional surveillance equipment?
  • by unami (1042872) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @07:41AM (#39907147)
    although i live in austria, i've never heard of the "austrian times" (and it's really not that big a country). also, the story lacks information about where this has happened (except that the fortune tellers are romanian), and i would't be the least bit surprised if the pictures from the two women were random stock photos. i'd take this story with at least a grain of salt...
    • Good point. There are no names given for any authorities, and only the "witches" first names are used. Also, the "Austrian Times" is an exact mirror of croatiantimes.com, romaniantimes.at, salzburgtimes.at, viennatimes.at, and austrianindependent.com.
    • Actually, the pictures are real ... These gipsy romanian frauds are often in the news here ...
  • And I don't recall the average Romulan ever being quite this sneaky. I'm betting she's Tal Shiar.
  • This seems to be the Euro version of Weekly World News, considering the reporting quality (or lack of) and other dubious stories: How long until someone posts this fake story from the site to Slashdot? [austriantimes.at]
  • Through my 27" Liquid Crystal Monitor.

    You don't really need Google for this though. Plenty of suckers out there are quite happy to believe a cold reading.

  • The pair used information collected from internet search and social networks to gain the trust of their customers, claiming that they could see their personal data through their crystal ball.

    Why is it illegal to search clients' public websites via a spherical monitor? I don't get it.

  • ...if it weren't for those pesky kids in the stoner van.

    "their most bizarre case involved a scuba diver dressed as a monster."

  • So it's all right to flat out pretend that you can see the future, but if you do research first, it's fraud?

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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