A 22-year-old Hell's Kitchen resident claims a midtown Manhattan fortune teller bilked her out of more than $200,000. Jiawei Li, 22, first got involved with 26-year-old Amanda Ufie (a.k.a. Amanda Petro) in January 2012. Over a ten month period afterwards, Li gave her $217,040 worth of "property, cash, gift cards and other means" because Ufie "claimed to have the power to cleanse this individual of a curse and solicited the money to cleanse said curse."

But because this is real life and not a film about a bicycle-obsessed, oversized-gray flannel suit-wearing weirdo, Ufie was unable to follow through on her claims, and has now been charged with grand larceny and scheming to defraud. Police add there was a second person who was ripped off by Ufie: she allegedly stole $1,400 from that victim, claiming "to have the power to remove negative energy from the second individual’s body."

This is, of course, far from unusual in NYC: Crystal Marks is accused of scamming over $100,000 in watches and cash from a civil attorney; other members of the Marks family have also been indicted for similar crimes. Sylvia Mitchell is accused of stealing more than $120,000 from a woman in exchange for “cleansing” the woman of “bad spirits." And a few years ago, Tammy Mitchell allegedly got $487,000 from a "free-spirited, successful entrepreneur."

All of which is to say, seemingly intelligent people with any sort of personal wealth are usually the targets for NYC-based fortune tellers—these aren't visiting rubes from Kentucky we're talking about. So here is our foolproof five-part plan for you to avoid getting scammed by a fortune teller:

  • Don't talk to fortune tellers
  • Don't step foot into any place that offers fortune telling
  • Don't have a conversation with anyone who claims they can "remove" curses
  • Seriously, even if you do believe in the supernatural in some sense—whether it's ghosts or spirits or Ghostbusters—there isn't a single tarot card-dealing fortune teller in the world with any sort of "powers" or ability to lift/break curses. It's especially difficult to lift/break curses because curses are not real, and adults should not live their lives pretending they are real, because then their kids will grow up thinking they MIGHT be real, and that will keep fraudsters like the ones above still in business. Then one day, a susceptible young person who grew up thinking that visiting a fortune teller is a fun, harmless thing to do on a Saturday afternoon will meet the wrong huckster, the one who makes a living preying on people's vulnerabilities, and voila, bank accounts are emptied and the cycle continues. So let's not even jokingly act like anyone who claims they can cleanse souls with paper currency is anything more than a cockroach.
  • You still have your money!