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Bogus agencies: A model scam

Watch out for 'talent' scouts at malls and amusement parks; it's the season for modeling and acting scams.

By Mitch Lipka May 14, 2013 3:52PM
It can be easy to get sucked in when someone claiming to be a talent scout tells you that you — or your child — has "the look."

For one, it's flattering (and who doesn't love flattery?) It also makes you think you're headed for a new glamorous and lucrative career.

man with target on his foreheadForget all that.

Less than savory agencies often set up shop at mall and amusement parks, sometimes pitching a talent show or casting call.
After they get you interested, it can go in several different directions, all of which will end up costing you money.

Consumer advocates warn complaints about the scam have started to pick up.

After your initial flattery-filled encounter, you'll likely end up at the agency's office — along with others who got the same spiel. The interview will be something more like a sale-pitch, and a high-pressure one at that.

Here's what you should watch out for:
  • Being told you need professional photos shot, and that you must use the agency's photographer. There's usually a steep fee attached, either for the photos or make-up. A real agency might recommend some photographers, but you are free to choose yourself.
  • A request for payment upfront. Real agents work on commission. In other words, they get paid when you do. You shouldn't have to pay them in advance. Be on guard double-time when they tell you the only payments can be by cash or money order.
  • Being required to take, and pay for, modeling or acting classes at the agency.
  • Guarantees that you or your child will get work — sometimes with the promise of a refund.
Yet another version of the scam uses the web and social media to try to lure wannabe celebrities to casting calls for a new show.
The Better Business Bureau warns that after you respond a so-called producer will get right back to you and invite you to either apply for the show online or come to an audition. The catch: You'll have to pay a fee — to ultimately get nothing. Even worse, the BBB warns, you've also given away personal and financial information.

As in the modeling scam, beware of anyone who asks for money upfront. No responsible, professional in the industry will make you pay money upfront for a chance to be on a show.

In addition to paying attention for the warning signs, before entering into any deal with a supposed modeling agency or casting company, do a little homework. See what you can find out about the company's reputation, complaints lodged against it and what other aspiring models or actors had to say.

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