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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Did you hear the latest? » » Miss Cleo's Creators Plead No Contest To Fraud (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of ThoughtThief
Members who have fantasized about cashing in on the psychic hotline business might want to peruse a recent online article published on entitled, "2 Miss Cleo executives get short probation terms in Missouri."

A pair of Fort Lauderdale men who created the Miss Cleo tarot reading telemarketing campaign entered pleas of no contest to felony fraud charges brought by the Missouri Attorney General's office. The two paid a $50,000 fine and were put on probation. They also agreed not to seek to collect nearly $19 million in outstanding charges incurred by Missourians who called the service.

It seems that their troubles are just beginning, however, as the company is currently under investigation for civil fraud by the FTC and various states attorneys general.

The staggering fact revealed in the article is the magnitude of consumers' hunger for a tarot reading by Miss Cleo (a.k.a. Youree Harris, a part-time actress living in south Florida who was hired by the company as an employee). The operation has pulled in about $1 billion nationwide.

Interestingly, the Missouri fraud charges appear to have been based not on an allegation that Miss Cleo is not a "genuine" psychic, but rather on the company's bait-and-switch tactics and its practices designed to keep the caller on the line as long as possible in order to run up the fees. Callers were usually patched through (after a lengthy hold) not to Miss Cleo but to one of a thousand other readers who were solicited by the company through "no experience necessary" print ads. The readers worked from home on commission and were required to keep the caller on the line for at least 19 minutes (at $4.99 per minute) under threat from the company that the reader's stream of clients would dry up.

Those who are interested in reading the article should go Here!

I don't know for sure whether non-aol members can access the article, but I would imagine they can.

Would any members care to comment on the import of this article, if any, on our avocation (or, in the case of full-time pros, vocation)? Is this a cautionary tale for those in the business of giving private readings? Or is the Miss Cleo operation an aberration, a victim of questionable sales practices coupled with highly visible, extraordinary financial success? Is the practice of keeping callers on the line (and, presumably, encouraging them to call again) different in substance from the private reader encouraging the client to purchase the longer reading or wetting the client's appetite for additional readings?

Just thought I would stir the pot.
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Profile of fordkross
Faux pot, the owners of the line pleaded guilty, not to giving fraudulent readings, but for fraudulent billing and collection practices. People were told they were to get free time and they were billed. When I said billed, it went on their phone bill. They were charging for long periods of time when they were put on hold. In addition, the readers were REQUIRED to build up time on the calls; those that didn't were terminated.

About 1984, I was reading for a couple of different 900 lines. They kept reducing commissions, requiring more hours on line by readers and requiring a 15 minute call average. So if you had a two minute reading, you had to balance it with a 28 minute reading. Most callers could ill afford the 28 minutes BUT, no one made them call. I suspect these people who called Miss Cleo now buy more lottery tickets.

I get the impression when these lines started they hired experienced readers. To maimize profits, they reduced commissions which drove away the pros and they hired inexperienced people. At one time in New York City, they were hiring off the welfare rolls.

Codex Reader
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Profile of Codex Reader
There is not one industry in existence that doesn't have fraud involved at some point. From your local bank employee embezzling, to religion and the Jimmy Bakers of the world, to doctors collecting false Medicare payments, to Miss Cleo executives, it is intent which creates a crime, nothing else.
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Profile of Peter695
Here is the take from the office of the AG of Missouri.

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Profile of mattneufeld
I just hope the same acting agency that tutored Ms. Harris on her horrible accent didn't also tutor that annoying guy on the Red Stripe beer ads. Maybe the Agency to Counter Bad Film and Television Accents can now finally cease its business with Ms. Harris and turn its focus to the Red Stripe guy. Oh, and Harrison Ford in that dumb summer submarine movie.
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Profile of brownitus
On 2002-10-13 00:16, Codex Reader wrote:
There is not one industry in existence that doesn't have fraud involved at some point. From your local Bank employee embezzling, to religion and the Jimmy Bakers of the world, to doctors collecting false Medicare payments, to Miss Cleo executives, it is intent which creates a crime, nothing else.

Well said and on point.

Take care,
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, US Commissioner of Patents, 1899
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Profile of Priest
I once worked for Miss Cleo, or actually for a company which accepts calls for Miss Cleo's psychic line.

We had to answer questions to determine if we were really gifted as a psychic. The questions were like this:

1. Have you ever had a psychic experience?

2. Have you ever felt like you can "read" someone just by seeing them, meeting them, or speaking to them for the first time?

3. Do you feel like you possess sixth-sense abilites that others may not be atuned to?

Yes, these were actually the questions to determine my eligibilty. I received a letter back from the leader in the group excited about my abilities(?). I was welcomed to the group and given a long, long list of things to do and how calls should be handled.

These included several ways to keep people on the phone, and lead them to believe that they would/could speak to Miss Cleo. We gave them her extension which was always busy. Then again, they could always speak with me since I was Miss Cleo's personal assistant. Sometimes, I was even honored to be titled one of Miss Cleo's inner circle of master gifted psychics. These were all, of course, just standard responses to keep them on the phone.

The majority of calls were at night. Or should I say, if I wanted good call time, I worked mainly at night. These callers ranged from drunks to children to lonely depressed old women and more. Miss Cleo advertised for 5 FREE minutes. So these people would call and ask about the reading, and I was instructed to tell them not to worry because they had 5 FREE minutes and not to worry because they would hear a tone after the 5 minutes. (I don't know if they ever did. No one seemed to have heard the tone.) What they weren't told is that they would still be charged the 5 minutes and all additional minutes. In order to get the 5 FREE minutes, they had to send a copy of their phone bill in to the company who would them reimburse them with a check for the 5 minutes. (5 FREE minutes is nothing compared to the length of time we strung them along on the phone.)

Deceptive practices? Well, people would call the 1-800 number where I would attempt to get them excited about their upcoming reading. I would pretend that I had a master psychic standing by the phone waiting and expecting their call. "Now, if you would like I can transfer you through to your master psychic who is waiting to speak to you right now!"

How did I transfer them? By asking them to press the "Flash" button until they heard a tone (that would be the dial tone) and then dialing that "one-nine-zero-zero" number I just gave them. Yes, essentially, they were just making a 3-way call and I would drop off the line once they got through.

We would also receive a bonus if we could get the callers to give us their email address. One lady called and told me that Miss Cleo had been emailing her because Miss Cleo had something very important to tell her. Miss Cleo had been dreaming about this lady and it was important to speak with her. My response (per the instruction manual): "Yes, I know. Miss Cleo left me a note because she was expecting your call. We have a lot to talk about..."

Before I left, Miss Cleo started hawking her dating service, CleoDate. So when new callers called in, not only did I have to inspire them to get a reading, but I had to tell them that the love of their life is waiting for them at the CleoDate website. It was required for me to say this as calls were frequently monitored. It was also uncomfortable to say this to callers who were unmistakably quite old in age.

One lady spoke to me for 1 hour 30 minutes. She wanted me to write her. She wanted me to find her a man to keep her happy. She wanted a friend. She was lonely. She wanted me to come visit her. I made her my last caller.

I started the job because it seemed like an easy way to make money and work from home. I eventually quit because Miss Cleo was being investigated, calls were dropping off, and I couldn't take the deception that came along with the job. All I could think about was these people and the phone bills they would be receiving. One elderly lady I will never forget called me from her hospital bed. She was crying. She had cancer and wanted to know if she was going to die. My heart sank.

I have all kinds of stories I could tell from my Miss Cleo days. But what always baffled me is that people never saw it as "entertainment." They always thought they were getting the real deal.

"Funk is not something U can buy at the corner store.
It is something that U find deep within Ur Soul!"
.:The One Year Project:. .:Forums:.
Justin Flom
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Profile of Justin Flom
Wow Priest. I called once about two years ago, just to see what is was really like, and you summed it up pretty well. They just want to keep you on the phone so they can make money. I really hope that most people don't look at Miss Cleo's psychic stuff and relate it to the art of magic. I don't want to be seen as a fraud to some. What do you guys think?

Justin Smile
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