This online exploitation is increasingly targeting UK-based victims, above all in Sussex and Surrey. Action Fraud, the UK’s organisation for reporting cyber-crime and fraud, is alerting residents to the spread of fake adverts for modelling contracts on job-browsing websites as well as social medial platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
During August 2017 alone, 49 reports of such fraud were made to Action Fraud, with the victims’ total loss exceeding £71,000.
Fraudsters have been deceiving candidates by creating social media profiles and online adverts in which they boast of fake deals they supposedly secured with respectable companies. Many candidates are flattered by the opportunity and are often they are promised generous salaries and guaranteed work, despite work being variable and unreliable even for successful models. Once contacted by interested candidates, the fraudsters invite them for an interview with a talent agency alongside a sample shoot or portfolio package, however urge them to act quickly. For this, the candidates must pay a high advance fee, which is a warning-signal that the agency isn’t legitimate; while professional photographs are necessary to interest clients, models should be able to choose their own photographer, who may not potentially be the one hired by the agency. This advance payment is also often via bank transferral or cash-in-hand, but many will never receive this promised shoot, and the fake firm will abruptly cease contacting them once the payment has been made.
Alternatively, candidates will attend this photo shoot simply to be pressured to pay more upfront fees to secure the imaginary modelling contract. Often the firms emphasise that the deposits are refundable, however this is only if very strict criteria has been met. This is a sign of being scammed; legitimate agencies don’t charge these advance fees to candidates, but instead take them from their paychecks for professional jobs. The candidates are then often encouraged to attend makeup, modelling and acting lessons; all are run by the fraudulent company, and all are over-priced. Attending this modelling school furthermore does not guarantee any legitimate job offers for the candidates.
However, it is not just the advent of online media that has caused this increase in modelling scams; many are carried out face-to-face too. Particularly in America, young girls are being stopped in the streets, complimented on their looks, and encouraged to attend a meeting with the agency. This alone is unorthodox, as younger models often require the legal consent of a parent or guardian to enter modelling contracts. The deception then continues in the pattern outlined above.
If you have witnessed this, or any other type of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud.