Friday, November 28, 2008
Modeling Scam Alert
The great thing about being in the modeling industry for so long is that I can usually spot a scam a mile away. But the scammers are slowly starting to learn from their mistakes. So I just wanted to tell you about a recent scam I avoided and am hoping to exploit. This particular scam has actually been around for a while but it's been some time since I've seen it, which means it must be back in season or something haha. While I can spot the signs, sadly, not all people can or will and I really want to save as many people as I can from falling prey.
As you may well know, I'm pretty easy to find on the Internet. I have profiles on a lot of online modeling community sites in order to expand my exposure as well as my networking opportunities. This has led to clients finding my photos and information and offering opportunities for me to work with them. While this works out most of the time, there are those that will try to scam me.
I recently received a message via one of my online modeling profiles from a lady claiming to work for a freelance modeling agency. One of their major clients, Men's Health Magazine, was looking for cover models for their Canadian edition and after coming across my profile, they were interested in booking me for this gig. Obviously Men's Health Magazine is a well known publication, both in print and online, so I knew that the client was legit, but I wasn't so sure about this "freelance modeling agent." The beautiful thing about online networking communities is that you are able to see who you are in contact with. I sent a message stating my interest and for them to send me more details. I wanted to see where this would lead. I then went to the person's profile on the site and found a couple of things that screamed "SCAM."
1) The person who sent me the message used a woman's name but the photo on the person's profile was an Asian male. Hmmm...
2) The basic information they filled out didn't make any sense. If it is a male, then most of the fields for female measurements would have been left blank. Instead, this person stated that their chest size was a 25 and a size E cup. So if this person is indeed a female, why put a picture of a man up there (no other pictures are on this person's profile). Hmmm...
3) Because of the site's "updates" feature, I was able to see who else this person had made contact with. It was a newly created profile so it hadn't been up for long. This person contacted 10 other models on the site, all with the exact same message/offer they sent me that day. Hmmm...
All of this led me to believe that this person was not working with Men's Health Magazine as a client and that the offer was more than likely bogus. They did email me back with a generic email saying that I got the gig and that they would choose a photographer, studio, makeup artist and hair stylist in the city that I lived in. The message also stated that I would be mailed a money order for $500, which I would take my cut from and then SEND THE REST OF THE MONEY TO A STUDIO MANAGER TO PAY THE STUDIO FEE. WTF?
Obviously, my scammer radar starts shooting off fireworks. A model's role is to be hired by the client, show up to the shoot, work, and then receive payment afterwards. Nowhere in this process is the model involved with paying fees for a shoot they were HIRED to work for, and are not supposed to deal with making arrangements with anyone about what facilities should be used. Give me a break! I was so mad when I read that message.
On top of that, the person writing these emails had very poor grammar and a weak grasp of the English language, which showed in the message. Now, I'm not just bagging on this person about their writing skills because I'm a journalist. I can tell you right now that oftentimes, poor grammar and usage in a message from a so-called "professional" in the industry is a huge red flag. Image is everything so I am highly skeptical of anyone in the industry who claims to be so-and-so and work with so-and-so, but can't even write me an email message that makes sense. Hello, there's a thing call spell check or even having someone else reread the message to make sure it makes sense. You wouldn't send an email to a huge modeling agency filled with grammatical errors and typos would you? Well, you should expect nothing less from people that want to work with you, either.
That being said, I sent a message to the editor of Men's Health Magazine, along with the correspondence between myself and this wanna-be freelance modeling agency. I told them that I believed this person was falsely claiming to be working with their publication in order to recruit unsuspecting models so that they could get money from them. I hope the editor gets back to me soon and that they will contact the proper authorities to investigate. Additionally, I tried to look up the agency's name and came up with nothing. I hardly think that someone who has Men's Health Magazine as one of their clients, should be hard to find on the Internet. Just too many red flags for me.
This is a common scam that usually begins with someone claiming to work with a huge agency, recruiting models to appear on covers of magazines and other print work. They claim they'll send you half of the money through the mail, but that you have to deduct a percentage of it and send it to one of their people in your city, who is supposed to use this money to pay for the studio fee. This is not how the modeling industry operates and if anyone wants to send you money for a shoot before even meeting you or inviting you to meet with the client or casting person, 9 times out of 10 that means it's a scam.
Please be mindful of these types of offers that seem too good to be true. I think the same person must be operating all these scams because in most of the ones I come across that use this method, it seems that it is someone who has English as their second language because the wording of the messages all have similar typos and grammatical errors.
Do your research, find names, and don't be afraid to let them know that you think they are scamming you. I will be emailing this person back to let them know that I will be politely declining their offer because I am aware of how the industry does and does not work. If I hear back from Men's Health and they confirm my hunch that they do not know this person, then I will be sure to include that in my email to them as well. It's all about being proactive but still remaining professional. I will not be cussing this person out or berating them...there is a way to get the point across without being nasty.