01/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Psychic Investments

Okay, by now you've probably read all the newspaper articles and watched the TV stories-even mine-that tell you more people are going to psychics because of the economy. Obviously, these consumers have given up on their stockbrokers, financial planners, and brother-in-laws for sound financial advice and want to seek the wisdom of someone who can claim clear vision on another plane. But whom do you trust?

Remember, there is no license requirement for clairvoyants, no degrees, testing or inspection. There ARE a lot of storefronts, websites and claims. As a first line of defense, let's start with some definitions. The etymology of the word "psychic" is Greek "psychikos" meaning "of the soul." A psychic is defined as a person who is sensitive to supernatural and mental forces. A clairvoyant is a psychic who can or professes to see objects or events outside the field of natural vision. A medium is a psychic who can or claims to be able to contact the dead. Astrologers and tarot card readers are interpreters who use their cards or celestial charts as signposts and road maps for human events.

All of that being said, there are a lot of charlatans out there and no real psychic wants to be confused with one. How do you tell the difference? It ain't easy. The smoother the talker, the more likely you're being targeted for manipulation. Buyers beware; use some of your own perceptive abilities to separate the bogus from the bona fide.

First, psychics may have gifts that help them see around the corner or behind the door, but they CAN NOT guarantee something will happen. They may have a sneak peek at fate, but they CAN NOT control it. Anyone who makes an outlandish promise such as: you'll get that big promotion, score big on the stock market, win the lottery, meet the love of your life on Saturday, is not for real. But the money you pay them is, so watch for this dead give-away.

Second, people who make dire predictions that you or someone you love will die or get sick or have a terrible accident are trying to control you through fear. They can feed you just enough of this scary information to keep you returning and paying. If they cannot give you a real insight into your life that you cannot get for yourself, don't be taken in. In fact, get out of the room fast.

Third, look for remarks or observations that sound impressive but are meaningless. For example, a smarmy soothsayer who is charging you by the minute may tell you he or she sees little pieces of candy, an empty wine glass and a candle burning. This is easy to visualize and conjures images of relaxation, even romance. But what in blazes does it really say? Nothing, Nada, Niente! This type of verbal ambiguity is not intended to inform or enlighten you, but to titillate your imagination to the point it overcomes your common sense. Always ask yourself if a reading can be applied to anyone and if so, what good is it?

Fourth, avoid answering too many questions. Slick operators use the customer's own information to sound supernaturally informed. If you're asked whether there is someone at the office you don't like or don't think likes you, recognize this query as the fishing expedition it is. The answer is invariably yes and this leads to more probing and then some pronouncement that sounds amazing but really isn't. Don't volunteer any information if you can possibly avoid it and then see what your psychic is made of. If you get nothing else out of your session, you will at least be entertained. And if you're floored by what you hear, then you may have just hit on the real deal. It could happen. And the stock market could rebound overnight.