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PSA Uses ‘Psychic’ to Demonstrate Dangers of Sharing Personal Info Online : Dave’s Got the Gift

by Mark Edward, Sep 25 2012

We Need More “Psychics” Like Dave

Thanks to one of my magic students, Michael McMenamin for alerting  me on this Belgian PSA.  It’s brilliant. Seems to me CFI or JREF could do a lot of people real good by doing something similar instead of spending thousands of dollars on more talking head seminars and preaching to the choir. As usual, Europe has to show the rest of the world the trend.  Good for them.

“Do you really need pyschic abilities to know intimate details about a stranger? Maybe not. A new video from Belgium that hit it big on Reddit and YouTube is proving that, thanks to the Internet and social media, learning a person’s deepest secrets and even just mundane info such as his or her favorite color or best friend’s name is only a few clicks away.

The video is actually a public service announcement titled, “Amazing Mind Reader Reveals His Gift.” It begins with random people being selected from the streets of Brussels. They are asked if they would like to participate in an upcoming TV program featuring Dave, described as a gifted clairvoyant. Once they agree, they are ushered into a white tent to meet Dave. He hugs them and dances around as he seemingly tries to get a sense of the person’s energy. As people are seated across from him, Dave tells them random facts about them, from the color of the motorcycle they own to their bank account number and even the types and locations of their tattoos.

As the unassuming subjects become absorbed in Dave’s trance and the factual information he is providing, the truth behind his magic is revealed. A curtain drops, and behind it is a group of computer hackers dressed in all black searching the Internet for information about each of the individuals. In fact, a large monitor sits in front of the hackers, displaying pictures and personal information about the subjects. Each person seems astonished, first at the curtain dropping and then at the reveal as they realize what has taken place.

The video was produced by a trade group called the Belgian Financial Sector Federation. They claim that the masked hackers dug up all the personal information on the subjects in real time while shooting the clip. They made the video to urge citizens to “be vigilant. Because Internet fraudsters can use information against you.”

The video has been viewed almost half a million times on YouTube, and commenters have left mostly positive reactions to it. One person wrote, “True. Very true.”

Although things were not as the people in the video perceived them, the people seem grateful to have been made aware of how careless they may have been with their personal information online. They seem aware that they left themselves vulnerable to crimes but are appreciative of the eye-opening experience.”

Thanks Dave, whoever you are.

Let’s see more of this:

7 Responses to “PSA Uses ‘Psychic’ to Demonstrate Dangers of Sharing Personal Info Online : Dave’s Got the Gift”

  1. Max says:

    Isn’t that what you did? Perform readings and explain how you did them?
    The counterargument is that just because someone can fake something unusual like, say, a photo of an airplane carrying a space shuttle, doesn’t mean all such things are fake. At least it gets people thinking.

  2. Mark Edward says:

    The PSA posted goes well beyond the “just because” argument. It dramatically shows how information can be and is accessed by professional hackers (and mediums.)

    Although I have many times stated that most of today’s crop of mediums are the laziest bunch of slackers in history, hardly ever doing any “pre-show” work these days after having ascended to such high and mighty levels of popularity, it’s a proven fact that even without his millions he could be spending on sophisticated programs and search options, James Van Praagh was recently caught out by a news reporter who back-tracked some of his on-line personal interviews and was later able to connect the dots and out VanPraagh with that lifted information that was fed back to him as a “reading” on national television. Vanpraagh is not the only one with a computer in his home.

    At Dragoncon, Randi showed my a slick mentalist trick that makes use of a credit card reader called “a cube.” With it, a random credit card and an assistant, he could tell someone what their last major purchase was, their credit card security number and lots of other info, just by finding a few seconde to surrepticiously slide their card through an IPhone.

    Make no mistake: we are not dealing with Bigfoot Elvis sighting shut-eyes that counter our skepticism with “just because.” We are up to our asses in semi-sophisticated (and sometimes very sophisticated)fraudsters.

    After writing this blog, it occurred to me that the saddest part of this situation is the fact that we here in the USA have no such enterprise as the Belgian government has with their Belgian Financial Sector Ferderation. In fact, (without wanting to sound too conspiratorial…)the very banking and financial institutions we trust that should be sending out PSA’s like this one and keeping us on our toes are the very institutions that have and make use of our personal information. Again, as far as “financial security” in the US, it may already be to late.

    • Max says:

      “Febelfin is the Belgian Financial Sector Federation representing 238 members. It tries to reconcile their interests with those of the policy makers, supervisors, trade associations and pressure groups at the national and European level.”

      Sounds like a lobby group. Tim Pawlenty just left the Romney campaign to join a financial lobby group, The Financial Services Roundtable. I don’t think we have a shortage of lobbyists. And no, banks don’t enjoy dealing with identity theft.

  3. Mark Edward says:

    Again Max, you always seem to miss my main point. Is it just you want someone to argue with? If not, please accept the blog for what it is.

  4. RickD says:

    The video was brilliant. It seems tricky sometimes to find an avenue of skeptical activism that really appeals (and is really useful) to the day to day life of the general public. I doubt most people really care about ghosts and UFOs and Bigfoot, but commerce and banking is definitely a relevant topic. And even though the video wasn’t generated by the skeptical community, an activism approach closer to real-world everyday issues might be a much better bang for our bucks.

    • Susan Gerbic says:

      Could not agree more RickD. This hit home to these people in a personal way that another article on cold-reading could not have. We have a lot of resources and talent available to us, we have to be creative finding how to reach the public.

      No one way is right or wrong, we have to keep trying things.

      This was wonderful!

  5. SSLassen says:

    “Seems to me CFI or JREF could do a lot of people real good by doing something similar instead of spending thousands of dollars on more talking head seminars and preaching to the choir”

    Yes, yes, yes!