Baby, You’re a Star: How Your Looks Can Get You Sucked into a Scam

By Dylan Donley, Spring 2014 Graduate Research Assistant

Has this ever happened to you?  You are walking through a mall, minding your own business and someone comes up to you and tells you that you have a “certain something” that would make you a great model.  “I mean, look at that walk!  You have a strut that would make any runway model envious.”  Naturally, you are flattered because come on, not everyone is flagged down to be told how attractive they are, so immediately you are more receptive to hearing what the person has to say.  Now the person introduces the “agency” they work for as a talent scout and tell you that you’ve definitely got what it takes, all you need to do now is to set up an appointment with the agency to complete an interview and you’re on your way to superstardom.

Well, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission, the reality is that many of these situations are indicative of modeling scams.  Instead of having what has been advertised as a modeling interviews, the meeting with the agency is really a high-pressure sales pitch to buy modeling or acting classes, screen tests, or photo shoots that can set you back hundreds to thousands of dollars.  If you are approached about modeling and see some of these signs, you may be dealing with a modeling scam:

  • You have to use a specific photographer designated by the agency:  While you need to have headshots and other professional photographs to apply for model work, you should be able to choose your own.
  • You have to pay a fee to the agency before they’ll do any work on your behalf:  Legitimate agencies will get work for their models and actors and will get paid when the models and actors do.  However, modeling schools are not the same thing as modeling agencies – modeling schools teach students poise, posture, diction, skin care and makeup application, and proper walking skills for a fee.  After the classes end, you are generally on your own to make it.
  • You are told the opportunity could disappear if you don’t act now:  One of the main persuasion tactics used by scammers is the “scarcity” tactic – they don’t allow you to have the opportunity to consider the offer and discuss it with others before giving them money for whatever product or service that they are offering.  If you find yourself being pressured to act right now, it may be a scam.
  • They guarantee you’ll get work and big salaries:  Nothing in life is guaranteed and even for successful models, work can be irregular.