The BBB just came out with its list of top scams for the last year and the acting / modeling scam is listed as one of the top 10… again.
While this is nothing new, the scammers are getting better. Everyday I get emails from people asking if so and so is legit. The quick answer to that is… If you must ask the question, then it’s not. If your gut feeling makes you question something or feel un-easy, don’t dismiss it.
The following are the top 3 that I get asked about. There are many others such as casting agency scams, model coaches, photo mills, etc. but these seem to be the most popular.
#1. Fake Casting Calls & Auditions
The old scam known as the Nigerian 419 or 419 scam is definitively alive and pulling in victims. While the other 2 listed schemes may have a semi legitimate business behind them, this one has criminals.
Criminals in other countries have figured out that wanna be actors and models may not always understand how the industry works and while this group is well aware that actors and models should not pay up front fees to fake agents, they may not expect a scammer to want to pay them… upfront.
They have taken to free classified sites like Craigslist to post fake casting calls. Yes, Craigslist is filled with these things and anyone using Craigslist should be very careful. Once you apply to one of these, the scammer then hires you for the job, sight unseen and sends you a pre-payment. The payment is always in the form of a check or money order with instructions that you cash the check, keep your share and forward the rest via money gram or Western Union to cover your travel expenses, MUA, etc. Much of the time the ad states they will pay your travel costs to the shoot location and they do this for a a few reasons.
Many newbie actors are under the false assumption that paid travel is an industry norm, even for extras and since the casting is a fake, they have no idea where their victims may be so they word the ad to make it nationwide with paid travel.
They play on the victims desire to become famous, a desire so strong that normal common sense is set aside. By common sense I mean… why would a stranger on the Internet not only hire someone sight unseen, but trust them enough to cash their check and send the bulk of the money to another stranger.
Once the victim cashes the check and sends the money, they never hear from the scammer again. The only people they hear from are the ones who call from the bank days later to tell the victim the check bounced and to please come make a deposit to cover the money.
The bank doesn’t care that you got scammed. They will demand the money back, sue you, send collectors after you and ruin your credit if you do not pay them. A check is worthless unless it clears, the bank trusts you as the account holder and gives you credit towards the check until it clears. If you do not want to wait to see if it actually clears and accept their credit, you are on the hook.
These checks are fakes or stolen. They NEVER clear but the scammers are pros and the check looks authentic enough to even fool the bank tellers.
Most of the time these fake auditions are easy to spot, they are written with spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Here is an example:
We are tailoring company wanting to promote our new Webpage picture and Monthly Magazine of our products. I am looking for a good model. We are looking for models age 18-50. We are doing a Causal dressed photo project and we are looking for both Females, and Males interested in modeling who are New faces. However, we are willing to pay you modestly for your time – $1320 for all the project and Your First project with us will determine our future relationship. We are taking care of the Transportation, feeding and selected models will receive our Fashion magazine monthly. You must be in good physical shape/ attractive, and should have GREAT people skills!
The grammar problems are obvious on the above example, but some scammers have better writing skills so lets look at the other red flags…
What the heck is a tailoring company anyway? Americans don’t use that wording, we say ‘clothing company’. The word tailoring is a translation from another language.
They want to promote their what? Webpage picture… Another bad translation for website. Wow, these guys are not too bright since the entire planet uses the English word ‘website’.
Looking for a good model, 18 to 50, male or female. That’s actually almost everyone except my gramdma who is over 50. No height requirements, no size requirements, no requirements at all with a 32 year age span. What are they modeling, potato sacks?
They are paying the very modest fee of $1320, wow, that’s a very modest $150 hourly+.
Anyway, the same red flags exist in all of these fake castings, they are just worded differently.
I’m not saying everything on Craigslist is a scam, but a good amount of it is. Also, they may contact you directly if you have online profiles on talent sites that have contact info or a way to contact you through messaging.
Nobody, NOBODY pre-pays people and then asks you to forward money for anything. It is always a scam. Legitimate agents and companies pay you after you do the work.
#2 Bait & Switch
This one is not necessarily a scam because they are selling a service but the way in which they sell you that service is misleading.
It starts by you answering a casting call (Usually for Disney or Nickelodeon) or being approached in public. Most of these are aimed towards parents. The person tells you that you or your child are “star material” and they want to see you at an audition.
These are not real or legit Disney auditions, Disney does not work this way. This is actually a sales pitch. Normally you attend a sales meeting they call a casting call and eventually, once they gained your trust, tell you that you or your kid can land that dream role only if…. That only if is what they are actually selling. It could be crappy acting classes that cost thousands, photography services, conventions or anything else.
They get you with lots of flattery and convincing you that they have some pull in the industry which they actually don’t. These people are sales people, not agents. Some of these companies make so much money that they can afford to pay ex Disney stars who are out of work to come and give pep talks at their sales events.
The F- list celebs they get are paid to be there and also have no pull in getting anyone a job. They can’t even get themselves an acting job, how are they gonna get you one?
While this seems like a low tactic, it is not illegal. They are no different than the timeshare companies that tell people they won a prize… a free trip to Vegas or wherever, but they need to listen to the sales pitch first. Of course, the free trip ends up being a hotel voucher which the company most likely got free from the hotel.
Bait & Switch sales tactics are not illegal. They NEVER tell you that they are personally auditioning for Disney. They usually just say your child has a chance to be the next Disney star. The Disney audition is just a ploy to get you to their sales presentation.
Would you really go if the ad said “Come on down to our sales presentation for the chance to pay us $8000 for classes”? These companies usually have contacts that tell you that they ARE nothing more than acting schools and that they are not an employment agency. However, that is what the writing says and the sales pitch can promise the moon.
#3 Online scammy profile sites
More and more of these seem to pop up everyday and there are a few that have been around for many years. This also is not technically a scam because ultimately you are buying a service, as worthless as that service may be.
You come across these in the form of yet another casting call or a form you fill out to get famous quick.
Later, the company calls or emails you and tells you that your dreams will come true if you pay to have a profile on their site. They explain that agents and casting directors go there to find new talent and you will be seen if you have a profile. Unfortunately, getting seen by an agent is not that easy.
They play on, just like the above scams, the fact that newbies do not understand how the industry works and believe they can be discovered from a profile.
Agents do not spend their day looking at profiles, nor do they even know most of these sites exist. Agents do not normally come to you. Most people have to go to them and most agents have procedures talent needs to follow to apply with them. Some have open calls a few times a year, some want resumes and heads shots mailed in.
There are some great legit sites like actorsaccess, etc., those are not the ones I am talking about. The ones I am talking about are the ones that tend to PROMISE fame and fortune for a price.
If your goal is to be a working actor or model you must approach it with the same sensibility as you would any other career. You cannot pay anyone to make you famous. Anyone that tells you they can make you famous if you pay them is a con artist. If they had the magic formula they were selling, well then they would be rich & famous, not making a living trying to take your cash!
You can also check out previous articles about the same subject:
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