The modeling industry is full of glitz & glam, but let's face it, there is also a darker side to the industry.
While I could write pages & pages about red flags that models need to look out for, one of the most common pitfalls that I’m seeing more and more of these days is models falling prey to scams under the guise of modeling agencies, scouts, or model bookers.
There are countless agencies out there that seem to pop up overnight with stunning images of models who they claim to represent plastered all over their websites. Maybe you have even had agents, scouts, or bookers reaching out to you on social media asking if you would like to get signed or be booked for this amazing job, but when you follow up something just seems off or it seems too good to be true.
As you know, if it seems too good to be true- it probably is. With the use of social media & the internet, it’s getting easier and easier to scam model hopefuls into signing contracts to bogus agencies or to lure them into potentially dangerous situations. To make sure that your aspirations of being successful in the modeling industry are not tainted as a result of you being taken advantage of physically or financially, I list out some of the main red flags to look out for before signing a contract or booking a potential job.
You Have to Pay a Fee: While it’s not uncommon for models to have to pay out-of-pocket for things like comp cards or website fees, legitimate agencies do not charge you an up-front fee to serve as your agent. Their job is to get you paid bookings, and they get paid when you get paid- not before.
Some may say that it’s just a one-time deposit that’s totally refundable, but when you read the fine print it's more likely that your deposit would be refundable only if you meet very specific (and unattainable) refund conditions.
Do not fall for this! Absolutely no legitimate modeling agency will have you pay an upfront fee in order to receive representation. Also, you should never give out your personal information such as social security number, credit card information, etc. until after you have verified that the agency is legit and you provide this information on payroll tax documents.
They Offer payment Upfront: On the flip-side of the above red flag, you should never trust an agency or job booking that offers you partial or full payment before you even do the booking. Oftentimes, they will reach out to you directly (not through your agency if you have one) offering you hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a booking with a well-known company, and will tell you that you’ll get a portion or all of it in advance to secure the booking. All you have to do is simply provide your banking information so they can do a direct deposit, or address so they can mail you your check.
Honestly, really think about it- who in their right mind would send that much money to someone they have literally never met?
They wouldn’t. It’s a scam.
They ask for nudes: It’s common practice to submit polaroids/digitals to modeling agencies or booking agents, and it’s even pretty common for women to be asked to wear bikinis and men to be shirtless in said photos.
That being said, under no circumstances should you ever be asked to submit nude or implied nude photos. Many agency websites make it a point to mention that nude photos are not wanted for submission and even discourage lingerie snapshots. A two-piece bikini is the least amount of wardrobe you should ever wear when sending in digital snapshots for a submission.
When you submit something on the internet, you never know where your photos are going to end up. If the agency or booking you’re submitting to is actually a scam, they will have your photos along with some personal information like your contact info, which could turn into a potentially dangerous situation. This is why it’s SO important to know if the agency or booking is legitimate.
Ask for Initial Meeting to be Outside the Agency: Agencies are part of a typical business, and as such, they almost always operate during typical 9-5 business hours. Aside from a largely advertised model search or casting call held offsite, the typical agency interviews always take place at the actual office of the agency and during their normal business hours. They do not happen at a Starbucks, not at a hotel, and definitely not at a private residence. If they ask you to meet them late in the evening or at night, especially offsite, do not agree to do so.
Even during the day, never meet with a prospective agent, booker or scout without first verifying they are in fact employed a reputable agency. Every agency will have its hours of operation and location easily accessible on their website, and some even have a list of their agents and bookers. Always check this before meeting someone, and if there are any questions about who you are meeting, don’t be afraid to call the agency directly to verify.
If you are represented by an agency, be sure to field any work-related requests by your agent. A legitimate industry professional will not mind if you bring a parent, guardian, or trusted friend with you, especially upon first meeting.
They pressure you to sign immediately: Never sign a contract or legal document if the agency is rushing you to do so and creating what seems to be a sense of urgency. You need time to check out a company and the fine print of a contract before committing to them. If an offer is good today, it should be just as good tomorrow or even next week. If they tell you the opportunity could disappear if you don’t “act now”, then it’s most likely a scam to get you to sign a contract that has zero benefit for you or your career. Always take the time to ask a trusted friend, family member, or attorney to review the contract in the event you do not fully understand the content.
They guarantee you work: No modeling job is ever guaranteed. If any agency guarantees that you will be the next big supermodel by signing with them, do not enter into their contract. A legitimate agent or booker may tell you that they have confidence that you will have a pretty successful career if you are willing to put in the work, but they should never promise you that they will book you tons of paid jobs and make you successful.
Tips on Avoiding Scams
Research: Research the company or person in question by doing online searches and social media inquiries to see what information you can find. Don't hesitate to call the number you found on the agency or companies website to verify that the person that contacted you is in fact employed by the company and the information they sent to you via email or social media is legitimate.
Check Reviews: Check out reviews listed on Google or Facebook. One thing I always suggest when looking into signing with a new agency is to directly reach out to models that you see on the agency's roster to see if those models are genuinely signed to the agency and what their thoughts are on working with the agency. Most models will be more than happy to share their experiences.
Avoid high-pressure sales tactics: Never sign a document without reading and understanding it first. In fact, ask for a blank copy of the contract to take home and review with someone you trust. If the company refuses, walk away.
Be wary of Big Money claims: While successful models in big modeling markets can make really big money, the majority of models aren't that lucky. Any agency or booker that guarantees that you will get rich by signing with them is making huge empty promises.
Use Common Sense: Always trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t! Never feel bad for asking for more information or asking for more time to do additional research. If it’s a reputable agency or booking, they should be more than happy to be fully transparent and offer up whatever information you need to feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, young and aspiring models are often the main targets of modeling scams. To avoid a scam, it is essential that you do your due diligence before engaging with anyone who expresses interest in working with you as a model. I hope these red flags and tips have helped you get an idea of what to look out for as you navigate your career!