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HAVE YOU EVER been approached by a talent
scout who says that you have the look to make it in
Hollywood? Flattered, you accept an invitation to
audition for the person’s agency. Such “scouts” claim
they can help you get cast in commercials, television
shows and films, and that you can make a lot of
money modeling or acting. It all sounds so exciting.
You show up at their office for an interview and they
pull out all the stops to get you to pay for expensive
classes, screen shots, casting workshops and/or
Their pitch sounds good. It seems as if they
know what they’re talking about and may even hold
the keys to success in the entertainment industry. So
you follow their lead, only to find out later, when
they do not deliver on their promises, that you were
the target of a scam.
If a career in the entertainment business is your
goal, make sure you know the warning signs of a
talent agency scam so you do not get taken.
Paying a fee to sign. Reputable talent
agencies are highly selective about who they take on
as clients. They do not require an upfront fee to
serve as your agent. They get paid when you get
paid, and it is standard that they take a commission
in the form of a percentage of your earnings.
A guarantee that you will work and
make money. Even for successful models and
actors, no job is ever guaranteed and work is not
always consistent. Do not believe the hype. There is
no magic for making money as a model or actor. Just
as with any other career, to be successful you have to
love what you are doing enough to endure ups and
downs and be a smart businessperson.
Accepting payment in cash or money
order only. If you do not want strangers to take
your money and run, do not pay them with cash or
a money order. If a company accepts only these
and acting scams
forms of payment, it is likely a scam. Money transfers may be useful when you want to send funds to
someone you know and trust, but do not send them
to a stranger.
Claiming a deposit is refundable.
Getting a full refund of upfront fees paid to scammers is highly unlikely. What is more likely is that
they have created strict conditions for refunds that
you cannot meet. They might tell you that “talent
experts” evaluate your chances at success in their
program and accept only a few people, and that
refunds are given to those who are not selected for
the program. What they do not tell you is that their
program accepts virtually everyone.
Requiring a specific photographer or
classes. To work in the entertainment industry,
you need headshots and/or other professional photos, depending on what your goals are. And taking
classes is a great way to sharpen your skills and master your craft. That said, an agency should not
require you to use a particular photographer or take
a particular class. A reputable agent typically gives
you choices and presents you with a list of recommended photographers or coaches who support the
intended purpose of getting you work.
You are told to act now. If an offer is
good today, it should be good tomorrow or another
day. If a company cannot respect that you need time
to check them out before you give them money or
personal information, you should not do business
If you really want to have a career as an actor or
model, learn about how the industry works. If you
do not have connections who can guide you, do
research by reading trade news from sources like
Variety, The Hollywood Reporter or Deadline
Hollywood, and books by entertainment professionals. You may also take classes at colleges or universities and attend conferences and conventions to
establish a network.
The most basic way to rule out scammers is if
they are selling you a dream and making it sound
like a career in the industry can happen easily overnight. That should be a red flag warning that you
need to walk away C
IF YOU ARE not sure
whether an offer is legit, do
• Search online for a com-
pany’s name along with
the words “scam” or
• If an agency claims it has
placed models and actors
in big jobs, contact the
companies mentioned to
verify that they have
hired models and actors
from the agency.
• Get promises in writing
and keep all documents
provided to you.
• Ask if a company is
licensed or bonded if that
is required by your state.
Verify information with
your state attorney general or local consumer protection agency.
• If you question whether
an opportunity is legitimate, contact the Screen
Federation of Television
and Radio Artists (
SAG-AFTRA; sagaftra.org) to
see if it is aware of the
company or opportunity
in question. SAG-AFTRA
is a labor union that represents performers. It has
offices nationwide. Its
representatives are committed to protecting performers from scams.
Report modeling or
acting scams to your state
attorney general’s office
and the Federal Trade
Commission at ftc.gov/