Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scams that cannot be stopped

The world is full of people who believe in all kinds of irrational supernatural ideas, such as the paranormal, the "spiritual world", the supernatural powers of the human mind (that only wait for them to be unleashed via proper training), and so on. Well, people are (and of course should be) free to believe whatever they want.

The problem is, lots of other people are cashing in on this psychological phenomenon. In the same way as many people believe in such things, there are others who are willing to sell them such beliefs for money.

Just here in Finland, which should otherwise consist of relatively highly-educated civilized people, there exist several organizations that sell books and other material, and offer "training courses" related to the supernatural, the paranormal, and all kinds of such nonsense. And they are not doing it for free either.

The thing is, these organizations and people are using their websites to advertise their material, and these advertisements offer many promises that obviously cannot be fulfilled. For example, one such website directly promises that by buying their material and following their training course the participant can learn such things as mind-reading, telekinesis and levitation. It's not even something that the website hints at or makes only vague references to. It's something that it directly promises. The prices for these "courses" are in the order of hundreds of euros.

This is, basically, misleading and false advertising, which is illegal here (and most other countries as well.) Yet nothing can be done about it.

There exists a consumer rights organization in Finland where consumers can complain about consumer rights violations, as well as things like illegal marketing techniques and false advertising. However, they have limited resources and have to prioritize cases, as there are way more complaints than they can handle. Scammers selling material and making all kinds of false promises is not enough of a high-priority problem, compared to other, more pressing cases.

Therefore such scammers get to keep selling their stuff, organizing outrageously expensive courses where they teach all kinds of nonsense (one of the best ones I have seen teaches about the unicorns of Atlantis; I'm not kidding here, they are teaching it seriously; and the price for a 1-day course is 80 euros) and promising all kinds of things that they can't deliver. And there's nothing that can be done about it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your blog. You make some very good points. On the selling of beliefs and hokum I actually think it may be a good thing. People who believe hokum to the extent that they are prepared to pay out money to learn more about it are likley to be way beyond help. In these cases the attendance of training will maybe show them that even though they are now trained in the mystic arts the results they see and the doubts raised are still there. This may persuade them that this belief is truly hokum and that there is something better to do with the money.