TV "psychics" are stock photos

Peter sez, "This blog entry describes how Alan Rice, a student in Ireland, became suspicious about some of the photos displayed as 'Live psychics' to be called at €2.44/min on Irish TV. He used image searches to find photos of some of the 'psychics' on stock photo sites. Other people chipped in and..."

Psychic Pat was in fact a bought stock photo! I quickly tweeted about this and from that I was pointed to the thread about the show where I posted the same photos. Things certainly took off from there and some wonderful people there started finding pretty much all the psychics listed on their website from various places around the internet including, from what I gather, a personal Flickr photo. It really begs the question who are you talking to? And in some cases from what I’ve read you only get through to a hold message.

Not only are these “psychics” giving out random pieces of information based on any detail they get from a caller they are exploiting some really vulnerable people who are desperately seeking hope for their current situation. In the brief time I watched last night there was even a call about a missing son for Christ’s sake!

How on earth can TV3 let this deplorable scam be aired and stand over this? It must be stopped from broadcasting and the money (€60 in some cases) returned to the callers.

Con artists working on national television.


    1. I know where you’re coming from, but that ship has pretty much sailed. I’ve stopped fighting it.

        1.  No you don’t.
          Of course, that raises the question of what should you do instead? For $60 I’ll send you an email with a stock photo of “me” and my advice.

    2. I have to know what caused the anger, is it that the principle of ‘begging the question’ is flawed (I just went and checked out the Wikipedia article on it, interesting stuff!), or is it that this is the wrong use. The article, although interesting, didn’t quite reveal your rejection to this usage.

      Incidentally going and checking out that article taught me a new Latin phrase, ‘circulus in probando’ which I must say that I’m a fan of, useful for times of maximum pedantry when ‘circular reasoning’ just isn’t enough.

      1. Language is tied into your individual mythology about the world. Prescriptivist linguistics, which tells people “proper use” is tied to idealism, ideas of nobility and status and a desire for control, descriptivist linguistics merely chronicles the language use “as is”, and is generally tied to a more free version of living, and the notion that language changes and evolves constantly.

        1.  All three of the surviving examples of Shakespeare’s signature are spelled differently.

  1. Back in the early 1990s, my freshman roommate in college had a part-time job posing as a phone psychic. She took all her calls in our dorm room on a shared phone line. She liked the job okay, but she enjoyed her soft-core phone sex job more.

  2. How on earth can TV3 let this deplorable scam be aired and stand over this? It must be stopped from broadcasting and the money (€60 in some cases) returned to the callers.

    Stop broadcasting it? Return money? Are you insane? You’d have to stop all sorts of advice sold by unqualified professionals based on any kind of mythology. Where would it end?

      1. Well, if all you want is a nice world, I guess it’d be OK. But who would want that? I mean, how would you get rich in such a place? Or lord it over others? I mean, dash it all, man, …

  3. If you believe that psychics are real then it’s just a question of a fool and their money….

    1. Fools who can’t read, that is. It does say, right there in the upper left corner of the screen, “Entertainment service”.

    2. Well… the text makes it at least sound like the guy was expecting “real” psychics, and was upset only after realizing they were stock photos.

      “It really begs the question who are you talking to?”
      Who was he expecting them to be talking to? Harry Potter?

      Unfortunately a lot of people do believe in psychics and will pay money to any random person that claims to be one.

          1. Oh yeah, mister psychic guy, if you’re so clairvoyant, wouldn’t you already know what the Paypal login and password are?

            Oh man, hold on, I’m having a thought… psychic + Ouija board = metaphysical hacker!

  4. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to those who are getting fleeced…  but really?  How brainless do you have to be to think you can call someone and for 5$ they’ll tell you the future?  I don’t really see this as much different than the “Praise the Lord” crew (Jim Baker etal) that asked people for money on God’s behalf.  My long standing question has always been “if they’re really psychic  why aren’t they calling you?”  

    1. A lot of these people are vulnerable, the debate being whether society has a responsibility to them or not. Interesting to draw the parallel with religion though, as that could oft be described as people taking money off of vulnerable.

      Or there’s the less patronising but more selfish argument, that people are allowed to spend their money on what they want, and if it provides some sort of emotional comfort to them, then it’s a win-win situation.

      1. I see it kind of like placebos (as in accidental placebos, not ‘genuine’ prescribed ones), and I find myself on the fence a lot. They (like this) does actually help people, just in its own weird psychological way. But at the same time it can harm people, by deception, false promises etc. especially in more serious cases.

        It’s a toughy, for my at least.

        1. I find it my duty to bluntly tell my auntie what I think of psychics and a lot of spritualists, in terms of their financial intentions, but at the same time don’t want to crush her spirit, as she rests a lot of emotional baggage on the cushion of religion/spiritualism. I don’t even know if it’s as simple as being cruel to be kind, as painful as it is to watch people with little money give to to cynical bastards. Ah, the quandary of neoliberalist capitalism…

          1. I think that I finally convinced my mum that the concept of an afterlife is a bit silly.
            As soon as I realised what I’d done I regretted it. Decades of eye rolling and snide remarks, all to crush an innocent belief that probably gave her some kind of comfort – all to win a completely meaningless argument.

    2. Based on aquaintances:  my guess is that at one point they had a friend/loved one who was either wise or intuitive, and they collated it as them being psychic.   That person isn’t in their life anymore, or they are but they aren’t giving them the answers they want, so they reach out to a “pro”.    And from an economic standpoint, probably cheaper than getting therapy. As has often been said, no one’s ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the general public.

  5. “How on earth can TV3 let this deplorable scam be aired and stand over this? It must be stopped from broadcasting and the money (€60 in some cases) returned to the callers.”

    It’s a business. They make money with it. That’s why. They get paid for it. By the people that call in and get scammed, yes, but they get paid.

    The same problem has been running rampant in German TV as well for the last few years. It turns out that these things just are the best way for commercial TV stations to make money if they don’t have the viewers or the market share. (If I remember well from my time in Ireland nearly everyone had access to the much more diverse and better British channels in addition to the Irish ones, so the local channels did not only have to compete with their own domestic rivals). Anything else costs money and might not earn them their money back.

    Last time I was visiting my parents in Germany I was appalled and slightly fascinated by the sheer amount of stations that are dedicated solely to scamming people like that. There were at least four stations which did nothing but try to sell esoteric services or goods among all those which just advertised sex hotlines.

  6. The only thing that will make this go away is a cheaper alternative.
    A couple of cases:
    1.  Phone Sex lines $4.99 per min- early 1990s free internet porn (pix only) killed it.
    2.  Phone chat/party lines $2.99 per min – Late 1990s  chat rooms like Yahoo Chat, AOL, MSN etc. killed it, they were free.

    The best way to get rid of phone/tv psychics is to make an iPhone app that does it for free.

    “Siri… why am I such a retard?”  “Because you believe in bullshit”
    “Siri…  why does my life suck?”  “Because you got a liberal arts degree and married a harpy”

    Wow… that would have taken $50 + staying up all night to figure out with a “Psychic”

    1. Yeah. And $0.01 homeopathic pills, and markov-generated horoscopes. All guaranteed to work at least as well as the more expensive alternatives.

      What amazes me about this article is that somewhere out there, there is probably someone who would take advice from a telephone psychic but not if their photo was fake. Just… wow.

      Also, the intersection of that demographic with boingboing readers is probably a very small subset of the world’s population.

      1. I don’t think that a $0.01 homoeopathic pill would work as well, frankly. Don’t you think the Placebo effect might be weakened because it’s cheaper and so people would think it’s not as good as the more expensive pill (even though it’s not)?

  7. Just people desperate for answers.  People want to know.  Vulnerable people.  That and a bunch of bastards willing to take advantage of such people.

  8. Next you’re going to try to tell me the angels don’t put the stars up with scotch tape.

  9. Not for nothing, but how bored do you have to be to feel you have to prove that tv psychics are frauds?

  10. The suggestion here is that the people calling in are vulnerable/gullible or some combination of the two. I would guess that some actually enjoy it and they don’t really take it very seriously. If there were evidence that the users of psychic hotlines were more vulnerable than the public at large, then I could see something being done. People waste money on all sorts of useless shit that’s really just an escape from reality.

  11. Surely the central part of the con-trick is that they proclaim to be “psychics” – the usage of stock photos is merely a bit of furnishing inside their castles in the air.

  12. A scam? Who could have foreseen that?

    ETA – Houdini is turning in his grave that we still fall for ‘psychics’.

        1. I can imagine a sentient Zombie Houdini trying to recapture his former glory, but escaping from the water torture cell when the audience knows he doesn’t have to breathe, fails to wow.

  13. Psychic phenomenon exists! Happens to me all the time. It’s embedded in my Alpha-male DNA, you other players know what I’m saying. The lifespan is a mere 5 seconds into the future. No not like that Nick Cage movie.


      It’s all in the mastery of words.

  14. weird, my astrologist didn’t warn me to avoid TV psychics.  possibly my humors are out of balance. time for another session with the scarificator at the local barber shop.

  15. Psychics not real? Reminds me of that pillar of journalistic integrity, John “Greed is Good” Stossel and his Pulitzer-worthy expose on professional wrestling:

    Whodathunk wrestling wasn’t real!?

  16. If somebody was prescient enough to sell their photo to a stock agency and then get hired by a company using photos from that agency… they must know what they will be talking about.

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