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EDITIONS
Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Spiritualist scam uncovered
A witch doctor in Mozambique
Witchcraft is prevalent in Africa and the West Indies

Black communities in Britain are being tricked into paying self-styled spiritualists after being told any problem can be fixed.

Victims are likely to fall prey to the scams after seeing adverts in the specialist press or being handed a flyer in the street.

The adverts are also posted through people's letter boxes.

They guarantee to heal broken relationships, lift curses or solve immigration problems, a BBC Radio 5 Live investigation has found.

Every major city in Britain has fallen prey to the leaflets and now the Advertising Standards Authority is to step up its investigations into the adverts which they see as a 'major concern'.


I think these spiritualists are preying on the weak minded and give false hope to people who they see as easy prey

Paul
According to the ASA, the ads could be exploiting the credulity of consumers.

It has investigated 80 such adverts and found that all of them breached advertising regulations because they were misleading, exaggerated, ambiguous or inaccurate.

Paul, (not his real name) suffers from a slipped disc.

He paid more than 850 for treatment from a spiritualist after hearing about some of their claims.

He was desperate for treatment and in constant pain.

"The spiritualist told me after a consultation which was built into the fee that he could cure me but that I would need certain items including animal parts," he said.

Animal parts

"My treatment included coconut and touching different animal parts wrapped in different coloured cloth and saying strange words."

Paul then had to go to London Bridge for another ritual and was told to say some chants every time he bathed.

"I was told I would see improvements within one month but nothing happened," he said. "I was told I may have done the treatment wrong and to do it again.

"After two months I demanded my money back but I was told this was not possible.

"I think these spiritualists are preying on the weak-minded and give false hope to people who they see as easy prey."

Phoney spiritualists

Chief Kola Abiola of the Yuruba tribe, has written two books on spiritualism and travelled the world practising his arts for 35 years.

He claims there are many phoney spiritualists making promises they can't keep and targeting vulnerable people through advertising.


We take adverts that could mislead the public very seriously and are planning to contact the specialist press about these types of ads

Christopher Graham
ASA

"There are unscrupulous people out there who are abusing people's trust," he said.

"Spiritualism is not about money. I would say never respond to a spiritualist advertisement because you don't know the person."

The ASA is calling on people who see these adverts to contact them.

It can refer an advertisement to the Office of Fair Trading if the advert is repeated after breaching advertising regulations and the advertiser can then be forced to pay a fine.

Christopher Graham, Director General of the ASA, said: "We take adverts that could mislead the public very seriously and are planning to contact the specialist press about these types of ads.

"We want to put a stop to bad advertising when it's making claims that can't be substantiated, alarming people or exploiting people's credulity."

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