Model Agencies: “If They Make You Pay, RUN”

By Iyanna Fairfax
Business Fashion Writer

“Do you want to be famous?” “You could be the next, biggest thing”, “I see so much talent in you”, are the words of these model agency vultures.

When someone reaches out to you and claims to be a Model Agency or provide model management services, there are some red flags to watch out for:

First, there are a few ways these fraudulent organizations may come in contact with someone: with a phone number, email, and especially with an active social media account. When a model agency reaches out to you through social media, check the page to see what kind of content they have. If the active users are mainly bots, then immediately decline. Most of these fraudulent businesses get away with their scams because they have what looks like a “high- profile account.”

Fake Modeling Agency Scam graphics. (Photo courtesy of

According to The Attorney General of Washington State, Bob Ferguson, “Reputable talent agents are often associated with professional unions, such as SAG-AFTRA.” Ferguson recommends models to research and checks if the agency is tied to a professional union, such as the Model Alliance. For those that are unaware, the Model Alliance is an umbrella organization for many professional model agencies, internationally. MA is a perfect example of the professional union mentioned by Ferguson. These unions showcase all associated model agencies. If the agency at hand is not a part of this Alliance, then this is a red flag to be aware of.

In the event that they reach out through phone or email, look up their names and see if they are credible agency workers or have verified social media pages themselves. The usual scammer will use fake names and have no real experience in the field. In any case, if you buy into the scheme, the agency will offer you an application and say that this will determine if you are a “good fit”. However, in these cases, every applicant will be accepted to increase the number of people they can scam. Once an applicant is accepted, a true model agency would automatically present a contract that the entire staff will review together, including the model. A scamming model agency will add further steps to make it seem like they put a lot of thought when ensuring if the person is the “right fit” for the “agency”.

Homepage of the (Photo courtesy of

The next thing the model will have to give is a cash payment through online payment services. This is the easiest way to see if the agency is a scammer. A reputable talent service will never ask for money from their talent. However, a scamming agency will make it believable that the money will be going to necessary services before you get a deal with a major line. “If you want to go far you’ve got to pay the price,” says Nine9 Talent Collection’s director, Laura Keys, one of these fraudulent companies. Mrs. Keys promised 20-year-old Alyssa Gill a test photoshoot with full glam in exchange for a small payment of $600. These “test shoots” are promised to go towards building a portfolio for the model to send out to big companies. However, many models have complained that their portfolios were never created. The self-proclaimed agency kept reaching out for the money even after she declined. As a result, Mrs. Keys told her that if she did not commit now, “she would risk the opportunity overall”

Nine9 continued to attempt to scam the young model for money when they offered her to go to a casting call. A casting call is where people audition for movies, magazine covers, and even commercial roles. False casting calls are not easy for model agency scams to pull off. Especially since it would entail an address that can easily be found and researched, but Nine9 had managed to pull off their own facility.

Unfortunately, if you look it up online, bland pictures of a secretary desk with chairs in the waiting room, different casting rooms, photoshoots rooms, and photos of models are available. All of the information posted seems legit, considering they have a phone number and website. Most agencies will have all of these tools, which is why it is important to do more research on what it is you’re applying for and whom you are talking to.

Anyone who is given the opportunity to potentially be cast for a famous brand or lead role would jump to their shoes in order to get it. Just like Ms.Gill did. However, she notices that “there was no description of the gig, the staff was unprofessional, and there were no details on the kind of talent they were looking for”. When she called about the gig, the woman on the phone was rude stating that she could not help and that Ms.Gill must wait for her “personal representative” to help her in getting her questions answered. In addition to the shady casting call information, she also realized that the casting call was also for the role of being an extra, but she knew that anyone can apply to be an extra for free. When the agency applicant realized all of the fraudulent activity, she decided that Nine9 was a model agency scam and never contacted them again.

Another way to see through an agency scam is to call and ask questions about their services as well as who runs the business. If they cannot thoroughly answer those questions, then it is likely that the agency is a hoax. In the realm of technology and internet surfing, it is important that we look out for these scams because you never know what they will take from you. It can be more than just money. Once you recognized that the agency is a scam, do not give them any personal information because they might sell your information to other scam agencies. Model Agency Scams can victimize anyone from young children to teenagers, to even the elderly, anyone who has a dream or desire to become a professional creative. So, if you ever decide to take a job in modeling, remember, if they make you pay, RUN!


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