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Maria Duval (born in Milan, Italy, as Maria Carolina Gamba) was the owner of the organization Astroforce until it was sold in 1997 to Health Tips Ltd, which is based in Hong Kong (now Harmonie Ltd). She subsequently became president of the Institute for Parapsychological Research in Callas, a small town near Nice.
Astroforce has since then been presenting itself as Maria Duval. The company uses her name and image for a well-known worldwide scam. Astroforce also sells its mailing list to direct marketing companies.
Since selling Astroforce, she started working in conjunction with Destiny Research Center.
Method of operation
These companies place advertisements in newspapers, magazines or sometimes will send personalized "mass produced" mail. People who reply will receive more letters which are addressed personally to them. These letters are also mass-produced. Each letter claims to be sent by Maria Duval and will offer some sort of help in return for money.
The letter will make unverified claims like:
- making accurate & verifiable predictions for the past 23 years in at least 2,400 TV shows and 8,400 radio broadcasts
- her achievements have been featured in over 700 newspaper articles
- predicting the rate of the dollar and the Stock Market Index and major newspaper headlines
- regularly working with doctors and the police
- telepathically located more than 20 missing persons
- having celebrities come from all over the world to consult her
None of these claims have been verified.
Complaints about these claims were upheld in the UK.
The letter then continues for about 8 to 10 pages. Duval claims she has telepathically received an important and urgent message, specially for the recipient of the letter. A special constellation of the stars (or something like that) means that an important time period has begun in the life of the recipient. The most important wishes of the recipient can become reality now, but only with the assistance of Maria Duval.
This assistance amounts to an item which Duval will send to the recipient and rituals she will perform, specially for the recipient. The item could be a 'Vibrating Crystal' which is supposed to function as a telepathic connection, a pentagram to put under the pillow of the recipient, a mascot, an amulet or talisman, a book with occult secrets or a secret manual to charge up the spirit with magnetic vibrations. Often the recipient has to perform some rituals as well, at the same moment when Duval performs her rituals. These services usually costs about 100 USD, but in this "special case" the recipient gets a discount and only has to pay about half the normal price.
These letters seem to be written by professional marketeers using several well-known marketing methods.
Complaints about the letters of Astroforce were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK in December 1999. Complaints about its advertisements were upheld in the UK in March 2000. In 2005 Astroforce stopped its New Zealand advertising after a complaint by the Consumers' Institute of New Zealand. In 2014, she was sued in US Federal Court.
- Melanie Hicken, Blake Ellis, and Julia Jones (2016-03-30). "Chapter Five: Knocking on the psychic's door". CNNMoney.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Paul Van Buitenen
- Consumer NZ, Maria Duval scam
- Advertising Standards Authority, Astroforce Ltd t/a Maria Duval at the Wayback Machine (archived July 9, 2000), (t/a = trading as)
- "Great Secret Manual of the Initiated", Maria Duval letter, p. 3
- Advertising Standards Authority, Astroforce Ltd t/a Maria Duval at the Wayback Machine (archived June 11, 2000)
- Consumers' Institute of New Zealand, Not clairvoyant enough?
- McClatchy DC
- Maria Duval, Official site of Maria Duval
- Black, Eleanor. Fortune teller's key to happiness unveiled as scam New Zealand Herald. 19 Dec 2001.
- NMoney Investigates Maria Duval Chapter One: Who is behind one of the biggest scams in history? CNN Money