- Make sure you do a background check on the contact or company of any casting call you plan to attend.
- As a model, you should never pay to be promoted.
- A legitimate agency or company will never have a model pay for a makeup artist or hair stylist.
- Scammers and con artists will often times be high pressure and short on time.
- The only time a model should ever pay for a service is upon completion. For example, a model should pay a photographer, makeup artist, or hair stylist after the work has been completed. A model should NEVER pay up front and NEVER send a check through mail ahead of time.
- Don't trust another OMP member who says that you should contact their friend at such and such email address who has a great paying job lined up. This account was most likely hacked into by a scammer via this member's email account. Report this message to OMP immediately.
The glitzy and glamorous world of modeling is dazzling but it is not for the faint at heart. To be a successful model, the work doesn't end after the camera stops clicking, one of the most challenging tasks of being a model is navigating an industry filled with manipulative people, who are always looking out for their interests. They range from seedy agents who try to skim off more than they should to straight out con artists. Always remember that for every fairytale ending you hear about in the modeling world, there are thousands of other stories about young women who let their naivety get the better of them and have become the victims of fast-talking characters who swindled them out of their money and left them without careers.
The most effective modeling scam is sadly also the most common one. It usually involves a wide-eyed preteen and an overeager stage mother. We've all heard the stories about how the likes of Kate Moss or Cindy Crawford have been discovered in the most innocuous places like supermarkets and airports. So the first instinct when a stranger approaches in a public place telling you that your daughter has superior bone structure and that she has all the makings of being a supermodel, is usually flattery rather than suspicion. These so called “scouts” would proceed to give you a sleek card and ask your daughter to come in for a few shots or to have a go-see. Before you know it, both of you have jumped a few steps ahead and are now thinking of the glamorous life that has generously opened it's doors to your little one. However, here's a reality check: these opportunities are usually model scams wherein they would go on and on about how much potential your daughter has, and how you'll help her jump start her career by shelling out thousands of dollars for photo shoots and representation. Fast forward to a few months later, and you'll have a handful of photographs of your daughter, but none of the promised contracts and jobs.
But model scams don't stop there, don't think you're safe from modeling scams once you've successfully bagged a legitimate contract from an agency or had your first few photo shoots. Remember that you will be encountering a lot of characters who prey on the dreams and ambitions of young models to make a quick buck. Make sure to be hands on in every aspect of your career and be aware of what the standard rates for agent cuts (current industry standard is at 20-30%) and other expenses are. You should know what you are expected to pay for (grooming, fltness, skincare, transportation expenses between shoots are usually covered by the model) and what shouldn't be taken out of your pay check.
Always remember that you have the chief responsibility to look out for yourself and be vocal about what you are and aren't comfortable with in any shoot. There are many variations of model scams, from bogus competitions, to underpaying jobs and even improper behavior by your supposed client. If you're not sure if the opportunity you're facing is a scam or not, here are the top five warning signs that you should think twice about what you're being offered.
1.) Copious amounts of flattery is involved
This trick tops the playbook of most scammers. Appealing to the ego with flowery words and over the top praises can mask someone's true intention. Don't let yourself get carries away by all the nice things someone says about you, he or she might be using it to distract you from paying too much attention and asking for more details. Those who perpetuate modeling scams bank on the supposed low self esteem of models, and they try to create an atmosphere of trust by showering you with compliments. Always take these fawning words with a grain of salt.
2.) They won't disclose how they managed to get in touch with you
Remember that the modeling industry is a very small overlapping one. It's built on networking and connections, so it's very rare to not have a common denominator with someone who suddenly comes up to you with a lucrative proposal. Don't flatter yourself into thinking that an agent singled you out on the sole basis of admiring your work. While this usually happens to more established models who already made strong connections with the A players in the industry, if you're a beginner model and a strange number or email address contacts you professing to be a big fan of your work, tread carefully. Emails and phone calls from strangers offering jobs without telling you how they managed to obtain your email or your personal number shouldn't be taken seriously. Popular glossies or production houses usually go through agencies and it's very very rare that they contact models individually, so be extra careful when accepting offers or agreeing to going on VTRs with people you hardly know.
3.) The little details don't add up
Call it natural instinct or gut feel, but when working with bogus agencies, there are almost always little warning signs that would be peppered into the picture. One might be a seedy location. High profile modeling agencies don't usually have offices in smaller towns. While the occasional go see in a hotel is more common, beware if it the go see is set in a lesser known part of town. Reputable agencies have an image to uphold and they would usually choose the most convenient location (near the airport) or a well-known swanky hotel to house their casting agents.
Do you keep seeing classified ads and newspaper stories advertising the agency? Remember that the good agencies are flooded with applications daily, and therefore do not need to advertise. If they put in placements in your local dailies all the time, it might be actually for modeling workshops or some money-making venture.
Other small signs include having giving out just mobile numbers or even premium rate phone numbers (numbers starting with 1580) when you ask for how to reach them. Think about it, why would an agency who is allegedly making the big bucks need you to pay when you want to contact them? You may also want to do a background check on the phone number that was given to you. Free services such as PrivacyStar.com are a great way to verify the person who gave you their phone number.
4.) The first step is to shell out cash
The ultimate red flag for model scams is that you're required to pay for something prior to securing an actual job. Bogus agents might insist that you have to have professional shots taken with their “in-house photographer” or that you have to take a series of classes to be able to be represented by the agency. Always remember that no agency worth it's while would pressure talents to shell out large sums for the privilege of being represented. As a beginner model, a stunning portfolio is hardly expected from you, what most casting agents need are clear simple shots of you wearing little to no makeup and basic fitted clothing to show off your form. Don't believe agents who pressure you into doing elaborate shoots at your own expense just to be able to book a gig. If you have the undeniable potential in modeling, your inclination for the camera will be easy to spot in any photo. Heavy makeup and complicated photography are strictly optional.
Speaking of optional, modeling classes are too. In fact, most reputable agencies prefer models who haven't undergone any professional training, so they still have a fresh sort of rawness that fashion insiders tend to prefer. Seasoned models don't get good at modeling from taking lectures. Real world experience from actually getting booked for shoots trump modeling workshops any day.
The only money that you're agency should be entitled to is the cut they make after you successfully book a job. The general rule with agencies is that when you make money, they make money.
5.) They require you to commit now
The high pressure sales pitches that these agents spew out are designed to make you go against your instinct and say yes to something that you normally won't consider. Don't get lured into the trap of thinking that an opportunity will vanish into thin air if you don't commit to it right this very second.
If you are presented with such an opportunity, hit pause on the conversation and require for everything that was discussed to be written down, whether it's through email or a formal contract. It's easy to get swept up in words and fall prey to euphemisms that cause misunderstanding. Don't allow yourself to be threatened that the opportunity will disappear if you don't say yes immediately. Professional agents are a stickler for documentation, so it's not supposed to make you feel uncomfortable to ask for additional information before agreeing to a job.
Now that you know how the top telltale signs of modeling scams, you should also be careful to make sure that you take additional measures to protect yourself from them. It's easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of shoots and the other fringe benefits of modeling, but always remember that even as an established model, you're never safe from people who would want to take advantage of you.
1.) Recognize that not everyone you meet would want to help you
As a newcomer in the modeling world, you'll be inundated by over friendly people who seem very interested and eager to help you. While it pays to be friendly, don't be naive. Don't give out personal information the second the words photo shoot are mentioned. Always insist on coursing dealings through professional channels like your agent or with the booking agency that the person claims to be representing. It might be tempting to take shortcuts to climb up the ladder of fame, but to get to the top you have to pay your dues at the bottom.
2.) Always have a lawyer go through any documents you're required to sign
One secret about modeling is that it actually involves a ton of paperwork. From contracts, to waivers to exclusivity deals, it's usually your agent who goes through all these. However, as the talent you have to be more proactive than that. Even if you have the most trustworthy agent, it's still good practice to let a lawyer or someone you trust who is knowledgeable about the law go through these documents prior to you affixing your signature.
The fine print is important, and it takes a seasoned professional to interpret legalese and make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. As a general rule, if you're just starting out, steer clear of contracts that heavily emphasize exclusivity. If you're under an exclusive contract, this would mean that the agency basically owns you and you're not allowed to look for work on your own, even if the agency is not booking you enough jobs. A certain flexibility in your career would benefit you early on so you would have the chance to gain a wide breadth of experience.
Agencies who constantly work with high profile models are already used to these additional measures that talents take, so they shouldn't flinch if you ask for a copy of a document to run by a professional before signing. Modeling scammers though, tend to run away once a laywer is brought into the conversation.
3.) Always make it a habit to look for references
Your first instinct once someone approaches you with an unbelievable deal should be to turn to Google. Search for the name of the agent and for their past clients. Make sure that the references he or she mentioned in your conversation checks out. Modeling scammers rely on dazzling their audience enough that they won't bother to check the accuracy of the statements. If an agent is starting to make you feel uncomfortable or is getting increasingly pushy, ask for his website and insist that you'll contact him if you're interested. If he is telling the truth, he would jump at the opportunity to show off his past works, if he is being evasive, take this as your cue to run.
Reputable sites such as OneModelPlace.com allows you to get in touch with other professionals in the modeling industry, so you can ask questions about certain agents.
4.) Have a mentor in the modeling industry
It could be a supermodel you've always admired or even just a fellow model that you share a connection with and who has a few more years of modeling experience under their belt. Don't be afraid to ask pointblank for someone to be your mentor. Older models usually jump at the opportunity to be seen as a wise sagely figure to newcomers in the industry. Chances are they've already been around the block and are familiar with the model scams being played on newer models.
Having someone to turn to for advice on how to handle everyday modeling sitches would also do wonders for your confidence. At the same time, your mentor can also introduce you to professionals that she has already worked with and can personally vouch for.
Overall, modeling is still an empowering and highly fulfilling career, and it's just like any other industry with it's share of self-serving scammers. However, you can always take measures to protect yourself against them, just remember the golden rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably because it is. Good luck!