,2933,70415,00.html<br><br>WASHINGTON Trading fortunes told for a fortune lost, the companies behind Miss Cleo's psychic hot line agreed Thursday to forgive $500 million in customer bills to settle a federal lawsuit alleging they fleeced callers hoping to glimpse the future.<br><br>Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network Inc. also agreed to stop selling their alleged soothsaying services over the phone and pay the government a $5 million fine, the Federal Trade Commission said.<br><br>The two Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based companies owned by Steven Feder and Peter Stolz promoted a national network of "psychic readers" on television and the Internet.<br><br>A woman identified as a Jamaican mystic named "Miss Cleo" offered supernatural insights into love and money.<br><br>Miss Cleo's real name is Youree Dell Harris. During a deposition in June, Harris repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, refusing to discuss a birth certificate showing she was born in Los Angeles to American parents.<br><br>Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau, said there was no truth in Miss Cleo's prognostications.<br><br>"I'm no psychic but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there is an FTC action in your future," he said in announcing the settlement.<br><br>The FTC accused the companies of misdeeds including false promises of free psychic readings, tricky billing tactics to squeeze money out of callers and harassing telemarketing calls.<br><br>Thomas Scott, 37, of Tallahassee, Fla., said he and his wife were verbally abused by operators when they called to dispute an $80 phone charge.<br><br>"It was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life," Scott said. "I am elated that the FTC has shut them down. Next they'll be hearing from my attorney."<br><br>The companies did not admit breaking any law but agreed to stop the phone service and forgive about $500 million in outstanding charges. They also must return all uncashed checks to customers.<br><br>Beales said during three years of operation the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it.<br><br>"They're getting out of the business," Beales said. "It won't resume."<br><br>
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