An Edmonton woman says she was bilked out of $50,000 in cash and $30,000 in gold by an astrologer who told her she was under a black magic curse.
Legal assistant Manpreet Deol, 31, said the money represented her life savings. She had planned to use it to make a down payment on a home.
The Edmonton Police Service is investigating Deol's claim that she was scammed.
Earlier this week, city police issued a warning about fraud artists posing as astrologists and psychic readers.
Police said in one recent case, an Edmontonian was convinced to pay $100,000 in cash and gold to have black magic removed from their life and to have access to more money.
Deol read about the police warning, and told CBC News she wanted to tell her embarrassing story to help save someone else from getting scammed.
She said she decided to contact an astrologer in April.
"I was just in a really low place," she said Thursday. "I had just recently broken up with my fiancé, and so I didn't know what was going on and I just wanted some relationship advice, I guess."
She found someone on Kijiji and visited him at a home in Edmonton.
Cursed by others who were jealous
"I went to go see this astrologer who told me that I was under a black magic curse," said Deol, who believed in black magic at the time.
The astrologer told her the curse had been placed on her by people who were jealous of her life.
"He said, 'The reason why you're always lonely and you're feeling lost and depressed and all this is because of this black magic,' " said Deol. "And he's like, 'And you're never going to get anywhere unless you get this removed.' "
Deol was vulnerable and fell for it, she said.
"I just thought of everything that was happening and it just seemed so true because the loneliness feeling, the depression and all that, and relationships failing. I just kind of started believing it."
She said the astrologer started asking her for money, initially asking her for $750 so he could perform a "protection puja" — or prayer — for her. She negotiated the price down to $500, she said.
Curse lifted, but would return
Deol said the curse-lifting process took four or five days.
"He had me bring in all sorts of things like oil, three different types of flowers, three different types of fruits. He always had a list of things that I had to bring with me."
The man eventually told her he had removed the spirit but that it would likely return and that he'd have to consult with his master.
She spoke to the second man on the phone and was told another puja was needed.
"So I told him, 'Yes, I want to do it' and he said, 'But it's going to be expensive.' He told me it's going to be $4,200."
Deol then met with the second man and the pattern continued. She said she was told the curse was getting stronger, that more prayers were needed, and that she would need to pay more for them.
Victim told to buy gold, she says
By the time it ended, she said, she had turned over $50,000 in cash and $30,000 in gold she had been instructed to purchase.
She said she was told not to worry because she now had the "lucky star," which would even help her pick winning lottery numbers.
But after handing over the money and preparing for the final prayer, Deol could no longer get in contact with the astrologer.
That's when she realized she had been duped and filed a police report, she said.
Const. Harpeet Jhinjar said the problem of fraudsters posing as astrologers and psychic readers became a trend in 2015 and is more common again this year.
The scammers are commonly in Canada on visitor visas from South Asian countries, Jhinjar said.
"And maybe, just because of the language, they were just targeting specific communities," said Jhinjar, adding that most of the victims are also of South Asian descent.
Difficult to lay charges
Because of the nature of the scam it's very difficult for police to lay charges, he said.
"Most of the time these people are using fake names and they are temporarily in the country, so by the time a victim reports the incident to police the suspect is already out of the country or we don't have their real identity," Jhinjar said.
That's if the victim even reports the crime. Jhinjar thinks many victims are too embarrassed to speak up. And if they do, it's unlikely to result in a conviction.
"Even if we were able to find someone, sometimes it's really hard to lay the charges because the complainant actually agreed to pay the price for those services," he said.
Deol said she no longer believes in black magic.
"No, absolutely not," she said.