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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

No future foreseen for Miss Cleo's scam

Friday, November 15, 2002

"This case proves that indeed, you can fool a helluva lot of people all the time."

Miss Cleo should have seen this one coming. In the largest settlement in history, her Psychic Hot Line was fined $500 million by the Federal Trade Commission this week for deceptive advertising and for fleecing consumers. The settlement means that the phony palm readers will have to forgive all customer charges as well as pay a $5 million fine. Hopefully it will mark the end of the scam once and for all.

Anyone in their right mind should recognize that Miss Cleo and her band of psychics are phonies who prey on dumb consumers. But never underestimate gullibility. As many as 6 million consumers called the hotline and were charged exorbitant amounts while on hold. The best advice? Don't call these quacks!

Missouri, we can be proud, was among the first states to pull the trigger on Miss Cleo. The two owners of the "service" were placed on probation and fined by Missouri state officials last year for unlawful merchandising practices. The settlement also ended the possibility of criminal charges here.

Thousands of complaints flooded the FTC over the deceptive practices of the phony telemarketers. Consumers were billed literally millions of dollars for unplaced calls or for time spent on hold awaiting a message from Miss Cleo. Extremely gullible consumers were often called back as many as 10 times each day with urgent "messages" from Miss Cleo.

This case proves that indeed, you can fool a helluva lot of people all the time. And by fooling that many people, you can line your pockets with cash. Hopefully the $500 million will end the practice and the service. But another equally phony scam will likely follow. And gullible consumers will again fork over good money for bad results.

Miss Cleo, by the way, is really Youree Dell Harris, born in Los Angeles to American parents. The accent, like the psychic service, is equally as phony.

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