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.

 

1. LocationModeling 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 through them.

 

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 legitimate.

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