The Bogus Agency Scam
Most models with an Internet presence will eventually be
approached or see casting notices from “agencies” which make magnificent
claims. Once in a long while it will be from a real, substantial agency with a
legitimate client base. Much more often it will seem to be from
such an agency, but will really be from a scammer.
These things can be hard for inexperienced models to spot.
They are good at salesmanship and creating the appearance of being real,
vibrant, important players in the modeling and talent market. Still, to a
knowledgeable observer, these scams are easy to spot.
Here is a tutorial:
There are exceptions to some of the rules below – but the
exceptions are unusual, and if there is a consistent pattern of an “agency”
with “exceptional” castings, the burden of proof needs to be on the agency.
The industry doesn’t work like that.
Location. Modeling jobs are local. A print job to be shot in Los Angeles will be cast in Los Angeles, by casting directors in Los Angeles and using agencies or other resources in Los Angeles. LA casting directors do not seek models in Oklahoma or North Dakota from online agencies located a long way from Los Angeles. LA casting directors do not use agencies in Milville, Pennsylvania, Houston or anywhere in New Zealand for jobs in Los Angeles. If an agency advertises print jobs where they aren’t, it’s a scam. If they are soliciting anyone other than high fashion models from places where they aren’t, it’s a scam.
2. Licensing Part One: All of the large media
centers (New York, California, Texas, Florida) require talent agencies to be
licensed. Some of these (California, Florida) do not require “managers” to be
licensed, but prohibit them from booking work for their models and talent.
That’s what "agencies" do. New York City allows “model management
companies” to book work for models, and in New York, virtually all “model
agencies” are really model management companies. The licensing rules can’t be
relied on in New York as they can be in other states.
3. Licensing Part Two: Licenses in one state are
not valid in another state. If a company claims to be licensed in, say,
Nevada, that does not authorize them to book work in Texas, or to have an
office in Texas. Texas requires a separate license for each physical address.
Any company that claims they are legally doing business in one state with a
license issued in another is a scam.
4. Licensing Part Three: Most states, including Texas,
California and Florida, require all model or talent agency advertisements and
websites to display their license number. If the company posts a casting
notice from those states, or claims to have offices in those states, and does
not list a license number in those states, it is a scam.
5. Time Casting on movies can take quite a while,
but print jobs are almost always cast within 2-3 days (at least for initial
callback decisions) of the time a casting notice is sent out. If an agency
asks you to go through any process that takes more than a day to be submitted
for a job, it’s a scam. If you have to send them something in the mail to be
submitted, it’s a scam.
6. Public Castings A common scam on model listing sites is for
“agencies” to publish “casting notices” as though they were working with the
casting director for the job, but which really are taken from publicly
available casting sites. That gives the company the appearance of legitimacy,
even of having lots of opportunities for their models. In fact, the “agency”
can’t submit people on many of these castings: it’s too late, or the people
who made the original post aren’t looking for submissions from agencies. But
none of that matters; the purpose is to suck people into applying to them so
they can extract money in other ways.
If a company is posting casting notices for movies or TV
shows, try taking distinctive pieces of those casting notices and running them
through Google. Dollars to doughnuts at least some of them will pop up, often
posted weeks before the scam agency gets around to posting them.
7. Advance Fees Some of these “agencies” charge
people registration fees “to be submitted” by them. These fees can be called a
variety of things: web site listing fees, performance insurance fees, “background
check” fees or other things. The bottom line is they are a way of the “agency”
taking your money without having to go to the trouble of actually getting you
work. Here’s a hint: real agencies don’t do “background checks” on their
models, and clients don’t either, or expect the agency to. If they ask for
things like this, they are a scam.
8. Products and Services All too many of these
“agencies” offer to sell you something: training, pictures, portfolios or
whatever. That’s the real way they make their money, not getting you work.
The purpose of an agency should be to get work for its models. If it is charging
them for something else, it’s a scam.
9. Quality of Presentation If the “agency” has a
website full of cheesy pictures, it’s a certainty that professional casting
directors aren’t working with them. It’s also a certainty they won’t produce
good, professional pictures for their models, so getting them to shoot pictures
for you will be a waste of money. Spend some time looking at the websites of
good commercial, fashion and talent agencies. Study what their pictures and
sites look like. If this “agency” doesn’t have shots like that, they can’t
compete in the real professional market – and you won’t be competitive going
10. Demographics Real fashion agencies have real
fashion models. Tall, skinny girls; tall, thin men. Real commercial agencies
have a wide variety of people of all ages. Real talent agencies also have a
variety of ages. If the “agency” site shows that they concentrate on young
women who are not very tall and skinny, to the point where few others are
present, it’s a scam.
All of these things are easy to spot. It doesn’t take
enormous experience or skill, and it doesn’t take much time. Anyone can apply
the tests above and get 95% confidence that any “agency” that is described
above is a scam. In case of doubt, make the “agency” prove they are
Want to learn more?
If you find the articles here helpful, we urge you to purchase our book: The Professional's Guide to Modeling.
Click on the link below for lots more modeling information on this site.
Index of articles about the modeling industry.