How to recognize common scams targeting aspiring models

(c) Pat Yuen

Aspiring models increasingly face the challenge of separating real offers from scam offers targeting their hopes and aspirations. Agency represented models usually don’t have to worry much about modeling scams if they vet all jobs through their bookers, but aspiring models who are unrepresented don’t have that luxury.

Despite MarketWatch ranking modeling as one of the 10 worst jobs in America, millions of young girls continue to dream of a career that pays low, has no benefits or retirement, and is at the bottom of the food chain in the creative process. These unrealistic dreams are often perpetuated by exposure to unrealistic portrayal of modeling in the media as a high paying, glamorous job when the reality is that most professional models barely make more than minimum wage on the average.

It is these unrealistic aspirations, far removed from common sense, that has attracted scammers to the internet modeling segment. For those not familiar with advance fee frauds, commonly referred to as Nigerian scams, it is a scam in which a mark (in this case a model), is paid a large sum of money for a “job” and told to deposit the check and wire the balance to someone else. The check is fake and even if the bank cashes it, the victim will be indebted to the bank for the full amount when it comes back as a fake.

In the past, most scammers have used mail scrapers to harvest e-mail addresses from modeling site profiles such as One Model Place or Model Mayhem. But as users become more sophisticated and omit their e-mails from public profiles, scammers have moved on to creating fake profiles on these modeling sites to contact the models directly. Sometimes the contact is made directly while other times, they use fake model profiles to “recommend” a photographer trying to add a level of legitimacy.

A common mistake new models make is narrowly focusing their research to a particular e-mail address or company name used in an e-mail. Scammers create e-mail addresses by the tens of thousands and any company names they use will be fake or may be real companies, which have no relationship to them whatsoever. The correct way for aspiring new models to protect themselves is to learn how the modeling industry works and recognize offers which deviate from the norm.

This is how real world modeling works

  • Big jobs go to agencies. No nationally recognizable brand name will hire a model on the Internet. That includes any names of brands or magazines that will get a model’s attention.
  • Models are never prepaid. Never. They are lucky if they get paid within 60 days of a job.
  • Model are hired locally. No name, unrepresented models are not flown from a small market to a large market. Why? Because there are plenty of models in New York and London. They don’t need to fly in models from Indiana. That is especially true for anything mentioning New York or London Fashion Week.
  • Real agencies interview in person and accept snapshots via their Web site. They do not interview models by webcam and ask them to get naked to be evaluated.
  • Real agencies do not ask models to send nude photos for evaluation. Well porn agencies may do that, but not modeling agencies.
  • There is no special secret connection needed to submit to modeling agencies, Playboy, or FHM magazine. Just go to their Web site and they will list the submission process.

Common scams targeting models

  • The most prevalent is the old as dirt Nigerian scam aka 419 scam. A model will be offered an over payment and asked to wire the difference to another team member. Ignore these offers and if a check is received, just throw it in the trash. Anything involving wiring money is a scam.
  • Webcam model interview/send in nude photos. This is a common scam trying to get models naked. The content may end up on some amateur webcam porn site or used for “personal collections”.
  • Magazines are often mentioned to lure in models with stars in their eyes. Ninety-nine percent of these will be bogus. If in doubt, go to the magazine’s Web site and contact them to verify the identity, e-mail, and offer. The most common magazine scams mention FHM, Complex, Nylon, Jurgita, and to a lesser degree Maxim since they are no longer in print.
  • Sex work recruiting. Models are often targeted for recruitment by escort agencies. These offers are usually easy to spot. They usually mention ridiculous amounts of money like $2,500 per day plus travel expenses.
  • Another common modeling scam involves promising models large sums of money to travel overseas, but they have to front hundreds of dollars to pay for work permits.
  • Common giveaways in scam e-mails are poor grammar, misspellings of designer names, and generic phrases such as “Dear Model” or “will be shooting in your location”.  For good measure, many throw in “God bless.”