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How to Spot Fake Tarot Card Readers

Sylvia Sky, astrologer, Tarot reader, and gemstone enthusiast, is a widely published author of books and articles about spiritual matters.

This is "The Chariot," reversed. Upright it means triumph and mind-over-matter. Reversed it means loss of focus or "losing one's way." Those things do happen, and a real Tarot reader will tell you so and how to avoid any pitfalls in your path.

This is "The Chariot," reversed. Upright it means triumph and mind-over-matter. Reversed it means loss of focus or "losing one's way." Those things do happen, and a real Tarot reader will tell you so and how to avoid any pitfalls in your path.

Getting a True and Accurate Tarot Card Reading

I've had my Tarot cards read just for fun. Because I myself can read Tarot cards, I am impressed when the readers are tactful and skilled and am amused by the gross incompetence of others who try to extract a buck from vulnerable people. A table at a psychic fair, or Tarot software, or a 1-888 number doesn't mean the Seeker (that's you) will get a sincere and accurate reading.

You want a knowledgeable and experienced reader, so here are tips for sorting the real from the fake (or flake):

  • When the Tarot reader or software lays out your cards, some should be upside-down ("reversed"). If all the cards are upright, you're getting a feel-good reading that neglects to mention possible problems and—here's where Tarot excels—their sources and solutions.
  • I've seen fake Tarot readers who keep dealing out all the cards in the deck, while watching my reactions as they do it. This type will likely tell you what they think you want to hear, or even worse, merely tell you what they think. Few Tarot "spreads" use all 78 cards in the deck, and those that do may take hours to read. A Tarot reader may not know how to read cards at all if they—Lord have mercy!—are dealing them all face down.

Reading Your Mind, or Reading Your Cards?

Some good Tarot readers will ask what your question is. Others are certain that the cards will reveal the Seeker's situation. Both kinds can be legitimate, so don't judge the reader if they can't read your mind. They read the cards.

Fakes will elicit personal information and spin it out into "readings." If you're at a psychic fair or street fair, first listen in on what the reader is asking other clients.

No ethical or trained Tarot reader ever predicts death. You see that in operas and movies scripted by ignorant people. Tarot cards are symbolic, not literal. A good reader will explain this. Here are some other red flags to look out for:

  • Beware if your reader relies on a Tarot textbook or computerized interpretations. Untrained or inexperienced people should not goof with Tarot or pretend to tell fortunes. Stories abound about people terrorized or scarred for life by playing, without understanding, at Tarot-card reading, or consulting a fake.
  • A fake Tarot reader drinks wine, beer, or cocktails before or during readings.
  • Real Tarot readers will discourage you from seeking the answer to "What is my fate?" or "What will happen for the rest of my life?" Tarot is very specific (except about calendar dates) and it's best when asking a question to limit the view to two years into the future.
  • The Tarot might address not the concern you have in mind, but another that is in fact more pressing or important. A Seeker's question may be a desperate "Will I meet a man to marry?" but if she's in bad financial trouble, the cards will show financial trouble, which is their way of advising her to face that matter first.

Blatant Misuse of the Tarot

  • No real Tarot reader will repeat your reading on the spot if you are only hoping for an answer that better pleases you. We do not second-guess the venerable Tarot.
  • Fakes talk about curses and spells. They may offer to create or neutralize curses and spells for huge amounts of money. Get up and walk away if you hear this nonsense. Life is not like Harry Potter or video games.
  • Real card readers will not grab your money out of your hand and say "Very lucky, very lucky."
  • A real Tarot reader will not scare you, or call Tarot "spooky" or "scary." More likely, they will say it's fun.
  • Real Tarot readers know that Tarot is not ancient or Egyptian. Tarot first appears in Italy in the 14th century as a card game and becomes a tool for divination in the 18th century.
  • "Angel cards" were invented in 1996 as a fad, so do not consult them for serious questions.

For heaven's sake, before racking up your credit-card balance, check out any Tarot network or practitioner. Online psychics like Maria or Celeste are fakes (real psychics have a first AND last name and they don't need to advertise), but some online and phone-line Tarot practitioners are truly looking at cards while talking with you. Best of all, find a live Tarot reader who comes recommended. Ask at salons, coffeehouses, spas, health-food stores, and hotels, and check references, which a real reader will be happy to give you.

A good Tarot reader will be kind, polite, and clear, and show how you can correct or avoid any negativity.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2010 Sylvia Sky


Mataya from Oregon on August 24, 2019:

Hi, I really like your article and yet it sounds a bit judgemental. I agree with almost everything you say. However, I have been reading cards and doing deep study since my sophomore year in high school. I don't know very much but I know that what I do is real. And yet, online I go by Mataya. I got the name out of the blue and found out years later that it means "God's Gift". When I do readings face to face I use my name. If people really want to know my name they can easily find it. I am a contractor with a small online company and have been there for years. I know you said that there are some that are really using divination but, you didn't seem like you really believed it. I am not trying to change your opinion, I am saying that what you say is hurtful to those of us that are sincere and that actually do what they say.

Chris on January 29, 2016:


I've been reading cards for 17 years and I have to agree with everything except the card positions. My cards are tools and I can see a bad situation without reversals. There are bad cards and there are good cards and there are cards when they are next to each other that signify that the current situation isn't a promising one. I can understand a lot of the hokey things you're speaking of, but please do not try to define reader technique. We all read differently in terms of spreads/positions and meanings. Your way isn't the only way, but otherwise there are some good points made here.Part of my card reading is intuitive because I don't always need my cards to read, sometimes I prefer them to help me along the way and clear some things up. Generalization isn't correct.

Sylvia Sky (author) from USA on March 17, 2015:

Thanks for your comment. I always thought reversed cards helped provide more detailed information, especially in the "staff" part of the Celtic Cross and Staff.

Fra JDS on March 17, 2015:

Qabalistic Tarot decks like the Wang Golden Dawn deck or the Crowley Thoth deck don't do reversals. Reversals don't actually make sense from a Qabalistic perspective. Plenty of the cards are quite negative on their own.

Sylvia Sky (author) from USA on June 26, 2013:

Thank you! I see your points! It is also true that not all reversed Tarot cards are negative, such as Four of Wands.

Michelle on June 22, 2013:

I agree with all the points made except the one about reversals. Some tarot readers do not read reversals, not because they want all readings to be "feel good" readings, but because they believe if there is a negative aspect to the readings, the cards will still represent this without reversals. Also, not all readers who do reversals believe a reversed card is necessarily a negative card- some believe it means the energy of the reversed card is being blocked or weakened.

GwennyOh on April 08, 2013:

Interesting and thought provoking article. I like you am a genuine Tarot reader and like to read up on all I can in and around Tarot. I will be back for more.

litsabd on September 12, 2012:

I have seen lots of fake readers and have been absolutely disapointed. I believe that tarrot reading , if done correctly, could help and prevent from dangers. In the name of money maing , people can do lots of things, even pretend to be charismatic enough to read the tarrot. Useful hub me friend! Voted up and useful!

Sylvia Sky (author) from USA on January 09, 2012:

Dear Susan: If you don't do any of the above I listed, how could I brand you a charlatan?

It is just my opinion, but I think the meeting of Seeker with Tarot reader is a very human and personal interaction and that's why I recommend it be done live and one on one rather than via computer. Lots of feelings are at stake. Also, I think the Seeker who has questions or is confused is more likely to speak up and ask for clarity if the actual Reader is there in person. There's also no "timer" running or anxiety that "This is costing me $1.99 a minute, I'd better hang up!"

I don't know a lot about Seth, but I do know alcohol is a toxin and results in impairment. I would not drink and do Tarot the same way I would not drink and drive. My view is that I have a responsibility to the Seeker to be clear-headed and a clean channel for higher forces.

Good luck with your business.

Susan on January 08, 2012:

Hi there,

Being a natural skeptic, I can see where you are coming from and certainly appreciate your efforts in ferreting out the online fakes. Searching out authenticity, reviews and like is something I do for anything online but I realize not everyone else does this.

While I've only just discovered your pages here and plan to poke around and read some more, I most certainly feel discouragement. I am a natural intuitive who uses Tarot to read others. While I am cognizant of the tarot cards "standard" meanings, I happen to see other things in them and in particular, other things in the collective story the cards tell for the person that I am reading (emphasis on reading the person, not just the cards). The cards are often simply the gateway tool for a reading and I know many other readers who have described the tarot and other tools the same way.

But based on what you are saying, if you were evaluating my reading of the Tarot cards you would brand me a charlatan? I don't do any of the above you listed, btw! When it comes to the consumption of alcohol I would also take that case by case, simply because of my beloved Jane Roberts, who would always take a beer just before channeling Seth each session (only one, I think?).

Lastly, I am preparing to open up shop online! I won't go into all the reasons why, but I have a great deal more than just Tarot that I will be offering. And I will be able to reach a much wider audience which will be essential. I don't understand why you think that Tarot readers should only work by word of mouth and brick and mortar?

You say to "find a Live tarot reader who comes recommended." That's very easy to do online today :) And you, my dear, are contributing to making that easier for the tarot consumer to do!

Keep up the great work!


Ania Lichszteld from United Kingdom on October 11, 2011:

I always was wondering what is Tarot all about, especially when I got my own set of cards and found out taht is more a questioning tool or a way of looking at things from different angles than anything else.

I've never been to any reader but I can see your other hubs about this topic so definitelly I can learn soemthing about it here. Thank you for sharing yoru insights!