How to spot and separate a child acting / modeling scam from real opportunities.

The showbiz industry is filled with unscrupulous companies that pray on unsuspecting parents. The scammers know their targets well. They know that ALL parents think their children are talented, beautiful and smart. They know that proud parents want their children to be happy and succeed. They also know that all parents think their child has that “something special” quality to be the next big child star.

The truth is… we all have kids. They are all great and cute. There are millions of them and millions of parents who can be taken by sales pitches that feed the need to hear “Your kid should be a star”.

Here is how the scam works…
You answer a casting notice, get approached in a mall, or even get a phone call after filling something out online. The sales person pretending to be in the industry and posing as a casting director, agent or some other title tells you your child is “perfect” and would like you to audition for some part.

Excited you go to the audition with your kid in tow.  Once there you realize that there are 100’s of others there and that it is not a “real” audition. There is no part to fill, script to memorize or production company there. It is a sales meeting and you are in the audience. Someone goes up and reads a pitch to all the excited kids and parents. They tell you your kids were chosen to be a part of the showbiz industry. They go into how much fame and fortune the kids will achieve. Every word spoken is meant to excite your child to a point where it would break their heart if you said “no” at the end.

Sometimes, they pull you and your child into a room and make your child read a couple lines for them. They do this to make the entire experience seem more legit. The reading is meaningless because there is no real part you are reading for…. it’s all an act.

Now comes the end… What do you need to do to make your child’s dreams come true? Pay up. What else. This entire sales session was meant to pump you guys up to pay for expensive, inferior classes, worthless acting workshops and poor quality portfolios. They have now convinced your child that “if only” their parents would cough up the 1000’s, they would be stars. They tell you that there are tons of companies who need “new faces”… and miraculously, can’t find them in the sea of over population outside. “New faces” and cute kids are hard to come by and companies will pay fortunes, they stop short of trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. You and your child MUST buy their services or their dreams of stardom can never be.

At this point, the scammers expect proud parents to fold into the pressures of “mom, please” and pay the cash. And, luckily for them, many do.

How to protect yourself and your child

Do not believe anyone who approaches you out of the blue. The scammers pay people to hang out at malls and shopping centers to sign up kids for these things… It’s all fake.

Be very careful when answering open call and auditions. When a real production company needs someone, they need someone specific, as in 8-9 year old Indian girl who can ride a horse. If you go to a casting and see tons of kids with nothing in common of different age groups, then it’s most likely a scam and be very skeptical.

If it turns out to be a sales meeting, run.  DO NOT allow your child to sit in.

NEVER pay up front fees for anything. This is supposed to be a job — meaning YOU get paid.

ALWAYS do your research. Google company names, agent names, etc. If you find nothing at all then it may be fake. Legit companies have tons of info available about them and their employees.  Many companies that operate in the gray change names and locations often. Finding very little or no information at all should be a red flag.

Learn to read between the lines.

Their commissions depend on making you feel special and selected for something special. They have honed their sales pitch  and know how to pull heart strings.

this is from the ftc

Unscrupulous model and talent scouts have their acts down. Take a look at what is said and what it means.

“We’re scouting for people with your ‘look’ to model and act.” – I need to sign up as many people as possible. My commission depends on it.

“Your deposit is totally refundable.” – Your deposit is refundable only if you meet very strict refund conditions.

“You must be specially selected for our program. Our talent experts will carefully evaluate your chances at success in the field and will only accept a few people into our program.” – We take everyone with money.

“There’s a guaranteed refund if you’re not accepted into the program.” –  Everyone’s accepted so you can forget the refund.

“You can’t afford our fees? No problem. You can work them off with the high-paying jobs we’ll get you.” –  We demand payment, whether or not you get work.

“Commissions from our clients are our major source of income.” – Our income comes from the fees we charge suckers like you.

“I saw your child’s photo and think she is perfect for ‘fill in blank’ , the job pays $800 a day, I would like to submit her to the job “ – for a fee I will forward her info to the other scammer I found in a free CraigsList ad for kid auditions.

It is up to you to protect your child! All the above is unethical but NOT illegal.  Authorities will not help you when you lose your money and your child gets no work.

These days there is little work for kids with years of training living in large markets whose families are in the business. The last thing a legit casting director for an ad campaign will do is travel small town malls seeking talent. Stay grounded in reality and never allow high pressure sales tactics to sway your judgement.

The Nigerian 419 scam and the acting twist.

If you think it’s unscrupulous sales people praying on dreams of fame and fortune, think again. The Nigerians entered the act as well. They are posting fake casting calls, trolling online profiles and contacting wanna bees with checks in hand.

How it works is they contact you through a submission through CraigsList, any online casting call, an email or a contact on a acting profile. They tell you they are casting directors and have cast you for a high paying role in your city. They love you so much from your pic that they will pre-pay you for the shoot… COOL! right? ahhh, wrong!

They send you a fake cashier’s check from an international bank. You are requested to keep your pay and forward the remainder to their crew for the shoot via western union. Your bank cashes the check and you forward the rest as told. 2 days later your bank holds you accountable for the thousands of dollars you withdrew against a fake check.

Authorities can not help you and you are left holding the bag. You cashed a check from a bad source against your account!  These people are in Africa, US authorities can not touch them and they know it!

How to Get your child into Acting for “real”

Forget about fame and fortune and concentrate on your kid having fun with it and improving their skills.

Get your child involved in school plays, local theater groups and local student film projects. None of these will pay a dime but will give your child the experience needed to get an agent. In small markets, agents may not always be required.

Find out what is being filmed in your area and contact the legit casting companies. Join their lists. Most cities have a few background agencies that allow anyone to register for a small fee and many casting directors hold monthly open auditions for new talent.

Many states have websites dedicated to the film industry and production in the state. They are a good source of local info for small markets.

Check with Union sites. SAG, AFTRA, Actors Equity, all have lists of licensed agents and other valuable information.

The only real way into the industry is with a resume, training, hard work and an agent. An agent will not see your child unless they have some experience and training. Send your child to community acting classes and local workshops.  Network with other families that are involved within your community.

Once you get an agent, it will be up to you to get your child to the auditions your agent sends you on. Be ready for lots of disappointment. This is not easy work. For every small gig your child lands there will be dozens he didn’t.  If your child enjoys it and has a true passion for the art, he will succeed.


This Post Has 208 Comments

  1. Deana BB

    I disagree that being scouted at a fair or a store means the place is a scam. That’s exactly how we got our daughter in the business.
    But you need to check out the place. We checked out different schools in our area and ruled out immediately the places which misrepresented themselves with being an agency, but offering classes. Then we ruled out the obvious scams Barbizon, John Casablanca, John Robert Powers, which in our modest opinion are not right educationally and in any and all aspect of how they do business.. Then we looked at a place which offers camps and plays.
    They would have been a consideration for the fun of that, but they advertise agents access, which they do not have.
    Then you realize that they now give Internet classes, and may not be around for very long.
    So and you’re happy you didn’t go for it. On top of it place is owned by a woman who is a big time MAGA. Weird for a person involved with kids in Southern CA, but not as much in Orange County, I guess. I didn’t notice cages there at her school, though. We’re middle of the road, so got a bit put off by that too. Then we got stopped at, I kid you not, a strip mall by a CVS, and the lady was shopping, but gave us a card. We looked them up and saw that the kids there were doing a lot. We went in and signed our kid for classes. We got everything we were hoping for out of the place. I’m posting this as one of the questionable places. as per my opinion advertises on this site, or they own it. So this way, I’ll know if this doesn’t get published that this is them. I’ll make sure to make some noise about that. If this gets published, thanks for reading. Now my advice, as my child is good and we got lucky. Get your kid in acting classes with a good place, to get them some life skills. Whichever State you are at. If the education is good, it’s worth it. And of course, it’s not cost you money, because nothing is free. Schools don’t charge percentages.

    1. erica

      There are many great acting schools around. I believe those being labeled as “scams” are those that hide that they are selling a service. Many shady companies employ salespeople who work on commission. Those sales people roam malls all day. They approach parents and their kids using non-existing titles such as “talent producer,” “audition scout,” “talent associate,” etc. They convince people they are legit casting directors… never using the word “casting director.” They mislead people to come in for an “audition.” Most have zero connections to the industry and were hired off of Craigslist to sell whatever the company is peddling. I have talked to many of these salespeaople, some who were literally fired from some car dealership before finding the job on Craigslist.

      Some of the shady companies that do this are walking a very fine line. Salespeople (which are independent contractors) get as much as 60%. That’s thousands of dollars for anyone they can mislead and bilk out of thousands. State attorney’s go after many of them… all the time. Not much they can do as the salespeople are NOT employees and they claim ignorance to it all. Their biggest advantage is that the approach and hard sell is done in person with no record of promises or misleading statements…

      I see you and your kid at the mall.
      Me – OMG, I am here looking for the next Disney star and I think your daughter is perfect for Disney.
      You – Really?
      Me – I can so see her on “insert Disney show” and in “whatever.”
      You – Wow!
      Me – I am a “talent associate” and I would love for you to bring her to an audition. I think she is the next Disney star.

      Realize, I never said that I had any connection with Disney… or anyone. I simply stated that I thought she would be great at it. The assumption is that I am actually SOMEONE, but I am just a salesperson stating my own opinion which is not worth the napkin I blow my nose into.

      That is not how any acting school with any reputation operates. Acting classes sold in this manner are as worthless as my used tissue paper I used to blow my nose. They hire anyone off Craigslist that says they may have done a high school theater class back in the day.

      Yes, good acting classes cost money… maybe a few hundred bucks. Scammy ones cost thousands.

      1. erica

        For the record, this site sells NO services. I have no affiliation with any schools or services. I simply post production notices. There are no user accounts or logins. It is simply a running list of casting notices with full contact info published publicly.

    2. Ron

      Deana, my son got scouted at a Costco! The lady there was shopping on her day off. She’s the vice president of marketing at my son’s school located in Irvine.
      After paying money to all those places that are mostly inadequate, we looked the current school up in Irvine, liked all the videos on their Face Book page, and went. It’s been good! Yes it costs money, but competitively oriented with cost, and you get much more for your buck than expected, there. The lady we met organizes events, and she basically spotted us, from behind a cart with all her water, tea and meat for a couple of weeks. Lol! You never know! Warmly, Ron.

      1. Maria L

        Hi Rob is this screen actor LA, in Irvine?I was approached by a lady at Costo, go or no go

        1. erica

          Casting directors do not hang out at costco, ever.

  2. Blax

    I had a “free trial” that I could never seem to get into. After they “fixed” it, I did make the mistake of paying for a subscription. AGAIN, problems logging in, not receiving emails, etc. I actually tried a different email address as a “free membership”.
    I’m getting all kinds of emails to that address because they want me to subscribe!
    I reached out to customer support only to get a reply that I can not use .edu or .gov email addresses. They should be from providers “such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook.” I responded that I wasn’t using .edu or .gov addresses and WAS using one of the suggested providers. I also complained that the scroll on the side was not functioning properly. NONE of the things I contacted customer support for were addressed.
    I demanded that because they couldn’t fix their issues and we have not been able to participate in the advertised services, I wanted a refund.
    It was denied.

  3. LaToya

    Gia and IMTA was in Richmond, Va at the Omni Hotel. We too (only my 9 year old daughter) got a callback more like a text from Gia stating to return on tomorrow (Sunday 7/8/18) at 145pm to do another reading. This time my daughter will have memorize a new script. Gia asked in the text which package will we be paying for and bring a photo, copy of report card. So I guess I will see tomorrow if it’s truly a scam or not. I’ll be sure to comment tomorrow letting you know.

    1. Sabrina

      HI LaToya. Can you please update this if it was a scam or not? I was contacted today well technically a few hours ago saying ALL the same things you stated. And they are asking for a lot of money. Is this legit? They are expecting me at noon today.

      1. erica

        If they ask for money and say they will get you into movies… yeah, it’s a scam. Legit agents are not allowed to ask for fees upfront for what are basically job interviews. Agents make money when YOU get a job.

  4. Brit

    We live in Orange County, CA. The problem is that all those franchised schools, and little studios like the performers academy place in Lake Forest, CA, where the level of education also has a lot left to be desired, are not registered by the State. They are not accredited in California.

    However, acting is like everything else, you need to have skills to book the work.
    After a lot of mishaps with other places, My child goes to a school, and as much as a lot of you here seem to think that they are all scams, it’s not the case. At least not as far our final attempt, which turned out to be good.
    The ones we were with before, yes. Nothing at all came out of those! Like Barbizon in Costa Mesa where we went also. Forget it!

    Children with actual skills in the business, have a better chance at getting signed and especially booking work. So they need training, and acting schools cannot charge percentages. So by law, they can only collect tuition money.
    I would ask if the school is certified in CA. If not then walk, of course.

    If a school tells you you need to pay to get evaluated, walk. That process should be free. ALWAYS. Agents who ask for money up front too. It’s illegal. Schools can only charge tuition money, BUT NOT EVALUATION MONEY! Agents can’t by law, get money upfront and they get 10% on acting, and 20% on modeling.

    We are very happy with our results. They even have top agents teach workshops there, and it allowed for us to meet my daughter’s agent, plus she loved the classes and the workshops.Not sure the law is the same in all the States, but I feel it should be, and the work is all in Burbank anyway. Good luck!

    1. Ron

      I took my kid there. Boring. No agents. I took him to The Actors Studio in Irvine. and no interest. My kid hated it.
      Then he did a play with the Playground, and same. That was actually fun at first, but very limited, and no agents’ referral.
      Same with Performers Academy. I thought the woman there, Natalie came across as b—tchy. My son hated the classes, the performance stuff was even worse than the Gary Spatz place. How did I find this site? When you google our current acting school, this comes up. I don’t want to name them, because this may be construed as a push for my son’s institute. I’m an IT guy. I don’t work for them, and paid all the places mentioned good money. The one now had us meet an agent on the first Saturday my kid was illegible for that. and he got signed! He has worked on a lot of commercials. We are hoping for a recurring part, but the money is always there. With the talks of recession, like the lady told me when we started 8 months ago, the children make money through great agents who come in to conduct workshops, but do this for the fun. We did, but in the back of my mind, I liked the idea of getting college money! I will just say that my kid’s institution is on Alton Parkway in Irvine. I am a dad. I was tired of those scams with their promises. My son LOVES the classes at his child’s actor’s school, and he got the work which education gets you. No complaints.

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