There is a place for pride in one's accomplishments and spiritual connections. By no means am I advocating that we all turn into hypermodest and self-denying hermits who never advertise our services or seek to build a reputation as the real deal. Whether you are a card reader or a full fledged minister in a faith, if you have a real connection with Divinity that you are nurturing and in turn using to help others, you have a right to the self confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes from that. I'm not talking about such people. I am talking about the complete blowhards of the magickal and spiritual communities.
We've all met them, at least those of us who have been around the block a few times. People like that include the arrogant church deacon who badmouths his fellows to elevate himself; the medium who likes to put on a giant show to get attention but never actually submits to possession, and my current favorite, the racist, braggart Mambo. There are two examples of the RBM clogging up the Internet right now; one is more famous and successful than the other, but both behave in about the same way. The chest-pounding about "power", "effectiveness", "authenticity rarely found elsewhere" and so on is endless. If a competitor or questioner arises, that person must be SQUASHED through verbal attacks, harassment and character assassination. And woe betide an actual customer who dares complain....
If they weren't hurting others and doing disservice to the spirits, these people would be almost comical. Both come on very strong, offering a lot of "free information" which always leads back infomercial style to advertising their products and services. Both consistently badmouth other races in similar fashion (one RBM is white, the other black, but the behavior is near identical). Both claim to have special privilege with the spirits; there is actually a video where a smug RBM brags about her initiation, claims that a certain very popular Lwa "is hers" and that she is his voice, and compares uninitiated people who call on him (which would include the majority of Hatians) to stray dogs. Both have hair trigger tempers and jump eagerly to attack others, both drag their friends and initiatory family into their Internet fights for "backup", and both have developed a reputation for tantrum-throwing, threats, money hunger and fraud. The problem is that along the way, they have taken a lot of people for a lot of money and damaged a lot of people's faiths. And that is unforgivable.
Anyone who has been burned by a spiritual fake can describe to you the detrimental effects of trusting someone like that. But how do we avoid them? First off, one must always listen to one's instincts. Anyone, no matter how much of an ass they are at heart, is willing to ACT nice and cordial and sympathetic when they have dollar signs in their eyes. But if you find yourself with niggling doubts about a spiritual leader who wants (usually a lot) of money to do a working or divination for you, LISTEN TO THEM. Step back. Move immediately on to the second and even more important step in avoiding a fraud: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Read up on them. See what people are saying. Take note of what other people charge for the same service, and take note as well of any fraud sites where former victims of these people might have posted warnings. Just keyword searching their names can get you a wealth of information. In my case, it is how I learned that one of the RBMs I mentioned before has a long history of her initiates leaving on bad terms and denying association, even re-kanzoing to sever all connection with her house. The other one (the "voice of the Lwa") has a serious criminal record, including for attacking her own children, and is decried on various fraud sites. After learning this information I was very relieved that I had never paid a cent to either of them.
In the matter of possessory and other spirit-connected religions, from shamanism to Vodou, another key is to KNOW YOUR SPIRITS (research and talking to multiple people will help) and to know your spiritual tradition. Once you have that information in hand, do all that you can to WATCH AND LISTEN to the suspected fake without letting yourself get into a position where you are vulnerable to them. The medium I mentioned at the beginning of this post was a subtle performer with a lot of knowledge of the possessions he was faking, but it was only a matter of time before an equally knowledgeable person could spy out that it was all an act. I watched. I listened. I waited. My suspicions were confirmed when I watched him completely botch a faked Damballah possession. Damballah, a mute snake who crawls on the ground and hisses, was suddenly walking around making solemn pronouncements to people in a clear voice. It was a truly revealing moment, stripped away any remaining illusions about the man, and also removed much of my fear of speaking up against him, because he looked so ridiculous. Fakes can't maintain their act perfectly forever; eventually they expose themselves. The key is to make sure they don't get the chance to make off with your money or your trust in the meantime.
I suppose that what it all boils down to is that you should really GET TO KNOW any spiritual leader or service provider before trusting them with your spirituality or your cash. Nobody legitimate is going to mind if you spend some time considering and asking questions, because they have nothing to hide. I know that many of us only think of paying for a service when we are desperate, but desperation makes one vulnerable. It is a million times better to work on your problems from the physical world side while you take the time to make sure that the help you seek in spirit is actually trustworthy. Better yet is to make the acquaintance of spiritual workers outside of crisis time, so that you will already know who to go to when a problem crops up that you need help with. We don't bite--at least the honest ones of us don't!