Wednesday, November 25, 2020

December 12 - Combating Fortunetelling Fraud (aka Psychic Fraud)

Presented by Bob Nygaard

Saturday, December 12, 2020
1:30 pm (Online Virtual Talk)

The link to view the live stream of this talk is

Fortunetelling fraud (aka Psychic Fraud) is a prevalent problem in the world. It is a certain species of fraud whereby self-proclaimed psychics emotionally abuse and financially exploit vulnerable people who are experiencing problems in their lives, bilking them out of billions of dollars each year under the guise of providing assistance.

Private investigator Bob Nygaard will explain how he builds a criminal case against self-proclaimed psychics who commit fortunetelling fraud, in order to cause these con artists to be arrested, charged, and successfully prosecuted. Additionally, he will enumerate the impediments that often exist when trying to bring self-proclaimed psychics to justice and the strategies that he employs in his efforts to protect society and make victims whole.

Bob Nygaard is a retired NYC cop (NYC Transit Police District-3 ) (Nassau County NY Police ), turned-private investigator, turned actor, who specializes in the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of non-traditional organized crime suspects. Nygaard specializes in debunking and causing con-artists, most notably self-proclaimed psychics, to be arrested and he has recovered millions of dollars for fraud victims around the world. Nygaard has appeared on ABC News' 20/20, Crime Watch Daily, The Dr. Oz Show, The Security Brief with Paul Viollis podcast, Nancy Grace, German TV show Achtung Abzocke, and numerous other news and radio broadcasts, as an expert in confidence crimes. A short documentary entitled NYGAARD has been filmed about his work. The documentary is a self-reflective account of Nygaard's work helping the victims of psychic fraud. Nygaard's first role as an actor in a SAG-AFTRA production came in the CBS true-crime TV series Pink Collar Crimes, in which he portrays himself. 

Shadow of a Doubt - November 2020

  • Public lecture - "In a World ... A Hollywood View of Planets" presented by Caitlin Ahrens, PhD
  • Message to members - Extension of membership
  • December 2020 lecture - Bob Nygaard, a private detective who specializes in the investigation of confidence crimes, most notably psychic fraud.  Saturday, December 12 at 1:30 PM ET, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel.
  • James Randi passes. 
  • Belgian Skeptics seek crowdfunding.
  • AmazonSmile helps NCAS. 
  • ShadowLite
  • Time to renew? 

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Shadow of a Doubt - November 2020

 November 2020

NCAS Public Lecture Series

In a World...
A Hollywood View of Planets

 YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by Caitlin Ahrens, PhD
Planetary Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Saturday, November 14, 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)

NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).

In this presentation, Caitlin Ahrens will explore the changing views of planetary sciences through cinematic history, venturing across fascinating planetary landscapes, first on the silver screen, and then again in real planetary photographs. She will also discuss "dangerous" planets and their prospects for astrobiology.

Caitlin Ahrens is a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, studying lunar ices and impact craters. She also produces the "Scratching the Surface" weekly segment (and forthcoming podcast) about planetary science news for KUAF-FM, the NPR station in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Named one of the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Americans by JCI USA, Dr. Ahrens volunteers as a "NASA Solar System Ambassador," communicating the science and excitement of NASA's space exploration missions and discoveries with the people in their communities.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.

How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser...

2) Use the link .  If typing the link, use "0" (zero), capital "O", "_" (underscore) and capital "I".

3) The live stream begins shortly before 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00) on Saturday, November 14, 2020.

4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.

5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.

6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

Message to Current and Prospective NCAS Members

In response to the economic hardship and other uncertainties that our members may be facing, NCAS has automatically extended by one year all memberships that expire in 2020 or later.  Payment will be accepted for new memberships as well as renewals for 2019 and before: new and renewed will have a bonus year added.  Each life member may sponsor a new one-year membership at no charge.  (Double life memberships may sponsor two.)  Send your sponsored member's name and contact information to This offer will continue until further notice.

December NCAS Lecture
Our speaker will be Bob Nygaard, a private detective who specializes in the investigation of confidence crimes, most notably psychic fraud.  Saturday, December 12 at 1:30 PM ET, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel.

James Randi (1928-2020)
NCAS mourns the death of James Randi, the great skeptical conjurer of the late 20th and early 21st century.  If not for him, the skeptical movement's reach beyond academia and niche publishing, into the entertainment world and thus into public consciousness, is probably unthinkable.  Randi, who died on October 20, was as much at home on the lecture stage as on the theatre stage.  His personal charisma, wit, and sharp intellect attracted, developed and inspired skeptics of all ages, more than any other prominent skeptic could, with the possible exception of astronomer Carl Sagan, his longtime friend.  By the early 2000s, the skeptical movement began to transform into a diverse social culture through a shared love of freethinker knowledge, values, and of Randi himself.  It was at Randi's "The Amaz!ng Meeting" (TAM), held 17 times from 2003 to 2015, that this transformation and growth was dramatically visible.

In 1976, Randi helped found the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, now CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a program within the Center for Inquiry) and served for many years on its executive council, then founded the James Randi Educational Foundation in 1996.  In the late 1980s, Randi met NCAS co-founders Jamy Ian Swiss and Chip and Grace Denman, became fast friends, and often gave NCAS presentations when visiting DC.  (His July 8, 1989 talk at NIH, introduced by Penn Jillette, is still the largest draw in NCAS history, with over 550 attendees.)

NCAS stood with James Randi in his time of need. During 1991 and 1992, Randi, CSICOP, and others were sued by Uri Geller in many U.S. jurisdictions and in other countries as well. Although all the suits were eventually resolved favorably for skeptics, this was a tense time for the skeptical movement, generating fears that critical evaluations of paranormal claims might be silenced by potentially staggering legal defense costs and having to pay settlements or court awards. But through this, NCAS provided financial and moral support to Randi thanks to its member donations to his legal fund, and with some board members accompanying him to his DC court dates.

Chip Denman posted the following reminiscences on social media, shared here with his permission:

1993, Randi was being sued for libel by Eldon Byrd, an amateur psychic spoonbender who Randi had taken issue with. The case was brought in Baltimore, and on weekends he stayed with us in Silver Spring.
One of those weekends, we had left him alone in the house -- what were we thinking?! We came home to find him putting the guest room door back on its hinges. The door, you see, stuck a little bit, and Randi -- ever the problem solver -- couldn’t have that. He took off the door, found my tools, and planed it down.
As for the trial, Randi had publicly accused Byrd of being a convicted child molester. As it turned out, that was not true -- he had pleaded guilty in Virginia to child pornography but had never been charged with molestation. The jury found that Randi had indeed libeled Byrd, but that Byrd’s reputation was so tarnished to begin with that they awarded no damages.


Every fall semester for almost 20 years, I taught a course on “Science and Pseudoscience” for the University of Maryland Honors Program. Randi’s Flim-Flam! was always on my reading list. Whenever I could, I liked to end the semester with a little bit of surprise fun. Several times, Randi was very generous with his time and phoned in to the class -- this was way before Zoom, so just an audio call. It being December at that point, he liked to tell a little story about the difficulty of proving a negative such as the non-existence of supernatural powers. It involved reindeer and a white-bearded gentleman and went like this:

(Excerpted from the Skeptics Society channel, March 22, 1992 at Caltech, "A Report from the Paranormal Trenches.")

In March 2007, NCAS, as part of its 20th anniversary celebration, presented its Philip J. Klass Award to Randi for outstanding contributions in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding.

The citation for Randi's Philip J. Klass Award is available here:

The Center for Inquiry's statement on the death of James Randi:

A newly posted YouTube video from December 6, 1991 at NIST, "Self Deception in Science":

From April 2002, speakers at an NCAS workshop held at Hilltop Hotel, Harpers Ferry, WV.  Left to right: Bob Park, James Randi, Chip Denman, Paul Jaffe, and Jim Giglio.


 Randi and Park (Klass Award 2007 and 2008, respectively) died several months apart in 2020. (Photo by Helen Hester-Ossa)

Belgian Skeptics Seek Crowdfunding after Multimillionaire Takes Lawsuit to Appeals Court

Recently the president of the Belgium skeptics group SKEPP ( emailed, seeking crowdfunded financial support for two SKEPP authors who "criticized the content of the pseudo-scientific master classes as well as the marketing tricks [Carl] Van de Velde [similar to Tony Robbins] uses to attract participants."  The authors won the lawsuit brought by Van de Velde...

...but Van de Velde is taking the case to the Court of Appeals.  See the SKEPP site for more info about the case, and how to contribute to the authors' legal defense:

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!

When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2020 came to $32.84, meaning that over $6500 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's enough to cover 90 minutes of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

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