You are at the mall and someone stops and says, “You are so pretty! You could be a model.” Or they tell you that your child could be a model, and if you let them take some photos, a glamorous and lucrative career could be just around the corner!
Now they have your attention. After all, it’s hard to resist flattery and the promise of lots of money.
The minute you engage in a conversation, they hand you their card and invite you to call and set up an appointment. Chances are good that they are not “talent scouts,” but scam artists who will take your money in return for nothing of value.
The next thing you know, you have an appointment and are sitting in a room filled with other women and girls who were given the same speech. But soon you find that you are not there for an interview, but instead you are pressured into paying hundreds to thousands of dollars in acting or modeling classes, screen tests and “professional photographs.”
Don’t let their persuasive marketing, or your desire for fame, cloud your judgment. Here are eight warning signs that can help you determine if this is a modeling scam:
- The representative says he or she is from a modeling school, not an agency. Modeling and talent agencies are not the same as modeling schools. While a modeling agency recruits models and pays them, a school aims to attract people to buy their goods and services in order to make a profit. Going to a modeling school does not ensure a career in modeling.
- You have to use a specific photographer. To be considered in the modeling business, you need photographs, but what scam modeling schools will tell you is that you have to use their photographer. An agency that requires you to use a specific photographer is likely scamming you for money.
- They only accept payments in cash or money orders. These could be signing fees, class deposits, photo shoots or evaluation fees. If they are asking for individual fees, they are probably more interested in your money than your career.
- They guarantee a refund. They may say that your deposit is refundable, but be aware of the tiny print. Sometimes the refund only applies if you meet certain conditions. This is why it is important to read everything before signing paperwork. Never sign anything on the spot, take it with you and have friends, family or preferably, an attorney, review the documents.
- You are told that the opportunity could disappear tomorrow. If this opportunity is good today, it will be good tomorrow. They want you to act quickly without thinking; this is a popular pressure technique. It is important to check out a company before you make any decisions or payments. Look carefully at their website. Google their name, followed by the word “scams.” And ask for references.
- They promise you will get work. No modeling or acting career is ever guaranteed.
- Lastly, search the company and read reviews. It is important to do your research and read about the experiences other people have had with the company.
There is a darker side to this scam as well. Sometimes modeling agencies are actually businesses looking for girls to be used in sex trafficking. They often prey on girls and young women who have addictions and/or who are runaways. They also target young women who are here from other countries, without strong family ties. So, please, be very cautious when approached by anyone promising a career in modeling.
If you are approached by a modeling agent who is “searching for your look,” be sure to remember these warning signs and listen to your instincts. While not all modeling agencies are scams, it is important to be vigilant. Get smart and pass it on!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.