Some modeling agencies are nothing more than con jobs designed to cheat aspiring models out of their hard-earned money.
Modeling agency scams lure their victims by advertising in local newspapers to encourage potential models, both men and women, to meet company representatives for group screenings. The ads usually state, “No fee.”
At follow-up interviews, however, “selected” applicants are asked to sign a contract agreeing to participate in classes and to pay more than $1000 in advance for the photographs that are required before they can work as models.
A variation on this scam involves the modeling agency paying for everything but costs associated with the make-up artist, which will cost $500.00 for the day. Ouch.
In the end, most of the would-be models receive no photographs and no job leads. The companies simply pack up and leave town before it all hits the fan.
What are the warning signs?
Recognizing a modeling agency scam may not be easy. Many of the advertising claims made may sound perfectly reasonable. When you contact or meet with them, their practices may be similar to those used by legitimate modeling agencies. When you see a modeling agency ad, keep in mind that most modeling and acting agencies don’t advertise. The mere fact that you are seeing an ad at all should make you suspicious. Below we’ve compiled a collection of the warning signs that can help you determine whether a modeling agency is crooked.
Modeling Agency Warning Signs
Below are some common lines you’ll hear from talent agency scam artists. First see what they say and then we’ll tell you what they’re really saying.
- “We’re seeking people with your ‘look’ for acting and modeling.”
These people are out looking for people because their income is based on commissions. So the more people they convince to “drop by” the office the better their chance of making money. This is a very generic line to use on someone and without some specifics you should be wary.
- “Don’t worry; you can always get your deposit back”
Sure it is. Only if you meet their incredibly restrictive rules. Never mind the fact that it’s odd that you’ve even been asked to make a deposit in the first place.
- “You must be selected specifically for our program. We only accept a few, very talented people into our program.”
Remember what I said about commission sales? If you have money for the classes they will try to sell you, then you’ll be accepted. This is not so much about talent. This is all about how much money they can get you to spend before you realize what a crock it is.
- “If you’re not accepted into our program, you will receive a refund, guaranteed.”
Everyone with money is “accepted” into their program since that’s the only thing that matters. Since everyone is taken, offering a refund is a bit of a joke. A joke on you.
- “Our fees are too high? Not a problem. They can be paid back by working the great paying jobs we’ll be getting for you.”
Whether you get work as a model or not, you will have to pay it back. We’re not a charity.
- “Payments from our clients are our company’s main supply of income.”
The only way we make money is from charging you fees. Please sign up for another class.
How to avoid modeling agency scams
- Be skeptical and don’t let your feelings get in the way of thinking sensibly. Think to yourself, “Why did they approach me?” Don’t be easily flattered. Instead wonder about the method they used to approach you. If there were lots of other people around and they focused in on you, that should be a red flag.
- Beware sales devices meant to put pressure on you. Always take the time to review contracts and other documents carefully before signing it. Make sure you understand what you’re signing. If you don’t feel comfortable, ask for a copy of the contract so you can take it with you. Then ask someone you trust to review it. If the company balks at giving you a copy, walk out the door.
- The company only wants payment in cash or money orders? Yikes. This means their top priority is getting their hands on your money, not on getting you a great career in acting or modeling.
- Unless you live in LA or New York, models in smaller markets can make between $100 to $150 an hour for work that’s probably going to be spotty at best. Any other figures given that are higher, are bogus.
- Get references for people who’ve recently taken their courses, used their services and were able to get work. If the company says they can’t provide that type of information, walk away.
- Verify claims that the agency has put actors and models in specific jobs. Contact those companies to confirm the agency’s statements.
- If you live in a small to medium sized town, does it make sense that an agency there would be advertising that they are the “largest” or a “major player” in the acting and modeling industries? Be doubtful of any agencies in your town making those claims.
- Do your homework. Different areas of the country are known for providing different needs. For instance, we’ve heard that New York is the heart of fashion modeling while LA is where to go for acting.
- Check into the company’s business license. Find out if your state requires special bonding or licensing to operate. You can double check their licenses through your state’s Attorney General’s office or the local consumer protection agency.
- Run the agency’s name by your local office of the Better Business Bureau, consumer protection agency or state’s Attorney General’s office. Ask if there have been any complaints filed against the agency you’re considering working with.
- Never rely on good intentions. Always get it in writing. And don’t rely on statements made orally.
- Place contracts, company information and all other important papers in a safe place, such as a secure file cabinet or safety deposit box.
What to do if you think you’re a victim
The first thing to do if you think you’ve been taken to the cleaners by a fake model or talent scout, is to make contact with your local Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency or state’s Attorney General’s Office (see our page on how to report fraud – https://www.fraudguides.com/report/).
Next, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ to file a complaint. They also have information on consumer issues at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/ or on their homepage https://www.ftc.gov.