How do you solve a problem like Maria?
People who are tuned into New-Wage marketing, with all of its edumucated-sounding references to scientific principles and cutting-edge technology, sometimes forget that the old scams are still alive and thriving. Some hucksters and hucksterettes continue to ply their trade in old-fashioned, almost quaint ways, without a single mention of quantum physics or other scientifical conceits. (By the way, I know I've discussed this matter numerous times on this blog, but just for good measure, here's a pretty good summary of what, despite the New-Wage co-opting of the discipline, quantum physics does NOT say. And if you're still not convinced, the author of that piece, my pal Steven Sashen, also has this.)
Anyway. This morning I was thumbing through the SmartSource coupon insert that came with the Sunday paper, and there, amongst the colorful ads/coupons for convenience foods, cosmetics, headache remedies, doggy treats, and incontinence pads posing as feminine hygiene products, I came across a full-page ad for the amazing psychic Maria Duval, "the famous clairvoyant." Central to the ad is a 33-item wish checklist, from which you are urged to pick seven items (your "7 Secret Wishes"). As soon as Maria receives your list...
...she is going to perform, on your behalf, a ritual known only to her which should allow your secret wishes to come true. You will have absolutely nothing special to do, other than to follow the very simple instructions that she is going to send you in a large, discreet envelope.
Only a few days after receiving your big white envelope, you should see the first beneficial effects of this special help. Then your life will take a new and quite amazing turn!
Here is the ad, which you can click on for an enlargement (the red disclaimer stamp is my addition, of course):
I like the nebulous, hedging language, e.g., "You probably won't believe your eyes, but each of the wishes you have asked for should come true." Maria promises that she will "try to realize them for you, FREE." Whaddaya wanna bet that after "trying" as hard as she possibly can for free, Maria will decide she needs a little bit of monetary enforcement to speed things along?
You've probably already guessed, if you didn't already know, that there is no "Maria Duval." There does seem to be a woman named Carolina Maria Gambia, aka Maria France, who apparently originally owned the company that is now using the psuedonym "Maria Duval." That company is Hong Kong-based Harmonie Ltd. (ne Healthtips, ne Astroforce). Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Maria (and yes, I know that the article isn't up to Wikipedia's quality standards (as of May 2009), but it's worth taking a look at anyway). What does seem clear is that the company masquerading as Maria Duval has been scamming folks all over the English-speaking world for many years. "Maria" reportedly keeps getting booted out of one market, only to re-emerge in another. At present "she" seems to have a comfy home in the U.S. via the SmartSource coupon insert, which, you may be interested to know, is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. I know, I know, you're shocked that arch-conservative and model citizen Murdoch, owner of FOX News and numerous other unimpeachable news sources, would be even marginally involved in something questionable. But there you go; life is full of surprises.
As you've also probably already guessed, Maria's "free" wish-granting service is anything but free. Once you've spilled all of your most personal secrets to her/them, via that wish checklist and the "confidential questionnaire," you're on her/their sucker list for life, or longer. Maria's "work" on behalf of your initial seven wishes may be "free" (and worth every penny, as I like to say), but you will begin getting a steady stream of offers for advanced wish-granting that will cost you money, should you be so gullible as to accept those offers.
And it's all done by mail order, so that the vulnerable elderly and others who don't have Internet access can have an equal opportunity to hurl all of their worldly wealth into the Maria money pit.
Canadians have been alert to the Maria scam for a few years now. Here's a piece complaining about SmartSource's complicity as well as "Maria's" scamming. And here's a blog devoted to the Maria Duval scam. Those were published in 2006; a more recent piece by California writer Tony Evans appears on the eHow.com site.
If you type "Maria Duval scam" into Google, you do in fact mostly get links to information about "Maria" being a scammer, but the current "sponsored link" will lead you down yet another scammish road:
I still sometimes find it hard to believe that with all of the consumer fraud laws in the U.S., we continue to see ads like "Maria's" in our Sunday paper inserts. "Maria Duval" has clearly been exposed as a fraud and a scammer in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Why are we so far behind? Then again, the US is the world capital of wishful thinking, particularly in these hard times. And hard times do tend to make the gullible even more gullible.
Maria Duval Scam?
Don't buy anything from Maria until
you read this. This one is real.
Now, if you are not entirely comfortable throwing your hard-earned moolah at a gen-yoo-ine phony psychic, you can always pay for a yagya, or have some other type of remote work done on your behalf. And lest you think that susceptibility to such things is the sole province of the old or uneducated, I'll remind you that it wasn't all that long ago that hundreds of seemingly well-educated folks, eager to improve their lives, paid $100.00 apiece for "absentee tickets" to a New-Wage seminar. For their hundred bucks, here's what they got, according to the come-on copy: "Your name goes on a piece of paper in the room, and the energy of the room and the participants will work on you, even when you aren’t physically in the room." (For moron...I mean, more on this matter, see here now. And giggle, if you must, at the sheer irony of the Google display ad that appears above that post. Hey, I don't pick 'em, I just rake in the bucks...nearly nineteen U.S. dollars so far!) [Also see this comment I received to yet another post, from a person whose friend apparently attended the event in question. ~CC, July 2009]
Once again I am hearing, in my head, a certain set of lyrics still in search of a tune...
PS ~ For the story of another old-fashioned scammer from a few years back, check this out.
Labels: Body mind soul and wallet