With so much moving online nowadays, modelling is not an exception. Unfortunately, it’s easy to be duped online into handing over cash or giving away details. The internet has opened up huge opportunities for those in the modelling industry, but it’s important for all models to stay safe online and avoid potential scams.
All aspiring models should know how to spot a legitimate agency from a fake one. Here’s how to stay safe modelling.
How to Spot a Fake Modelling Agency
Depending on how experienced they are as scammers, spotting a fake agency can be relatively easy.
Spelling & Grammatical Errors
A fake agency will usually approach you using social media. Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat are commonly used by scammers.
Look at the details. Are there numerous spelling or grammatical errors on their website or in their emails? This is usually a sign of unprofessionalism. Obviously everyone makes the odd spelling mistake, but lots of errors is a warning sign as a professional will normally re-check and edit their copy before sending it.
Look at what they are saying, too. If they use sleazy terms of endearment (e.g. “babe”, “hun”) or use inappropriate/excessive flattery (e.g. “You’re so sexy”) this is a red flag.
If they ask for inappropriate photos or money, they are fake – no legitimate agency will ever ask for money upfront, and they will never ask for photos you are not comfortable with.
A legitimate agency will also be happy to provide details about themselves, while scammers are usually hesitant to the point of rudeness. They may refuse to give their information and say something like “if you don’t believe me, that’s not my problem. I can find another model easily.” A scammer may also say there is a strict time limit so they need your information/photos ASAP. Never let yourself feel pressured into doing something you are unsure of.
Research the Scout
If the “scout” passes the above, next you need to find out whether the person in contact with you actually works for a real agency. This is easy enough to discover; simply get the scout’s full name, research the legitimate agency online and contact them via the telephone number listed on their official website. Never use a phone or e-mail given to you by the person you are researching; they may be fake.
Some people may say they work for an agency that is actually a scam agency. If you can’t find much information about an agency online, and if you feel concerned that they might not be legitimate, it is better to err on the side of caution and avoid them.
It is highly unusual for people to be scouted online. Try not to get too excited and spend time thoroughly researching the agency to avoid any scams.
Check the Agency
If the emails and website appear ok and you have checked that the scout is an official employee of the agency, your next action is to read reviews online. Some agencies may appear “legitimate”, but they may be using this as a money-making ruse or they may treat their models badly.
If an agency asks for payment upfront, avoid them. No proper agency will ever ask for money. Agencies make their money by taking a cut of the model’s paycheque when they get a modelling job. You should not have to pay for modelling or dance lessons, nor should you have to pay for a portfolio or a membership fee.
Try to talk to some other models who are signed by the agency and ask them what the agency is like to work with. Reviews will help you decide whether the agency is a right fit for you. Remember not to feel pressured to join the first agency that shows interest; there are many agencies out there, and some may be more suitable than others depending on your individual needs and situation.
99% of models get signed to an agency because they apply directly to them. It’s important to remember that, while some people do get scouted, this is a very rare circumstance.
Other Things to Look Out For to Stay Safe
If you are a minor, you MUST have a parent of guardian’s permission to model. If someone is approaching you online promising modelling opportunities, tell your parent or guardian immediately. By law, a young model must have their responsible guardian’s consent to model. They must also be present at any castings or interviews.
If an agency asks for a Skype call, proceed with caution. The recent pandemic has meant that some interviews are indeed taking place online in the form of Skype calls, but again your parent/guardian should be present and you should feel comfortable at all times.
Never meet up with someone through social media alone. A proper agency will ask you to visit their head offices. If someone is asking to meet you in a random place alone, do not do it.
If you receive anything that seriously concerns you, it’s important to tell a guardian, teacher or the police.
Further Things to Look Out For
If up until this point you feel confident that it is a legitimate agency, there is no harm in doing a little further research. It is better to spend an extra 10 minutes ensuring your safety than getting yourself into a dangerous situation.
Check out their social media accounts. Do they have the blue tick of authenticity? This is a good sign, though don’t despair if they don’t.
Next you need to check out their follower number. Is it low? Do the followers look like real people?
Next, check out their posts. Do they have high engagement? Do they have lots of likes or comments? Don’t forget to check the quality of the comments as they could be left by “bots” (fake accounts that can be bought to make a page appear legitimate).
It is very unusual for models to be approached via social media, so ensure you follow these safety measures to ensure it is a legitimate invitation. Most legitimate, large corporations will not contact potential models directly via social media; they normally use social media for customer service reasons only.
Do not accept friend requests from anyone you do not know in-person. Creating a fake account is incredibly easy and, by accepting, you are allowing them access to information that should be private.
Other Minor Details
When messaged (whether via e-mail or social media), it should be signed off by a full name. E-mails should include contact information including a phone number, website and the address of the agency’s offices.
Finally, when in doubt it is always best to avoid getting yourself into danger and simply ignoring the message. It’s important not to let yourself get overly excited at the prospect of being scouted; it might not be real, and it’s your responsibility to properly research the company and ensure it’s legitimate.