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Fortune-Tellers Beware : How To Foresee Legal Trouble In Your Future

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If you're a psychic, spiritualist, or fortune-teller, you're probably used to people being skeptical of your talents. However, you may not realize that you could also be breaking the law. If you offer services as a fortune-teller, psychic, medium, clairvoyant, Tarot reader, or something similar, this is what you should know.

A few frauds make it hard for people trying to offer a legitimate service.

Many psychics offer a legitimate service and consider their talents to be spiritual gifts. They claim the right to make a living with their talents the way anyone else might. An entire community of psychics and clairvoyants exists in Lily Dale, New York, where gifted spiritualists ply their trade. A few fortune-tellers honestly admit that they are only offering readings for "entertainment purposes only." 

However, because practices are so varied and a lot of the benefits of visiting a psychic are intangible, the industry is an easy target for con artists. For example, a recent case in New York involved a "psychic" who convinced a woman that her marital problems were the result of a demon that was inside her. She ultimately swindled the woman out of more than $60,000 for her services. In a similar case, a Florida woman was convicted of operating a far-flung network of fraudulent fortune-tellers and psychics. They succeeded in bilking various clients, including well-known novelist Jude Deveraux, of at least $17.8 million.

Cases like those, unfortunately, cast people who are legitimately trying to provide a service with their talents in a bad light. Lawmakers often react with laws designed to prevent fraud, but they can also hamper people who offer legitimate services as well.

Check your state and local laws before you open shop.

Before you open up shop, check your local laws and regulations. With all the negative attention on fortune-telling and similar spiritual services, don't rely on your understanding of what the regulations have been in the past. For example, in Salem, Massachusetts, fortune-tellers now have to be residents for at least 12 months and pay a $50 licensing fee. Your license to practice can be revoked if you have significant complaints lodged against you. In some areas, you have to not only pay a licensing fee but also pass a criminal background check and be fingerprinted in order to practice. 

In some areas, laws exist that make all fortune-telling illegal, but they may be rarely enforced. Fortune telling is illegal in the state of New York, but psychics and fortune-tellers routinely operate in the open in places like Lily Dale and New York City. Just know that if you choose to operate outside the law, you could face potential problems down the line.

You should also be cautious about offering guarantees for your work. It's generally wiser to be clear that, while your belief in your abilities is genuine, you cannot guarantee any specific results when working with the supernatural world.

Contact an attorney at the first sign of trouble.

Regulating a supernatural industry is difficult, but the most common charge brought against fortune-tellers is theft by deception. That's essentially using a lie to induce someone to turn over money or property to you. If you work with others, you may also be charged with conspiracy to defraud another. These are serious charges that can result in years of jail time and fines, as demonstrated by the cases mentioned above. If you've been arrested or believe that you will be, it's important to contact a criminal defense attorney, such as those found at Abom & Kutulakis LLP, as soon as possible to discuss your case.