This may seem kind of random for non-models reading this- but if you are a model, this should be one of the first things you learn. BEWARE OF SCAMMERS. They are hiding in the woodwork waiting to crawl out the second they catch wind of a new (or even experienced) model and they take so many forms it can be hard to decipher which offers are fake and which ones are real. Here’s a few tell tale signs of a scam:
Emails or other messages with lots of details about a fat paycheck guaranteed for you, or lavish brands that are highly recognizable, or claiming to be a famous casting director- but the casting says it will “be taking place in a location to be determined in your city.”
First of all, if it was really in your city, they would say the name of that specific city. Second of all, that isn’t how things work. Models travel all the time for a reason- to travel to the gigs! Established brands and casting directors do not travel to the model, generally speaking, especially not if the model is new to the industry. A good take away lesson from this is- if it seems too good to be true, it is.
Usually these scams promise a huge paycheck up front, and they ask that you take a portion of this check that they so generously sent you in advance and forward it to the “wardrobe designer.” HUGE red flag. The only problem is, when you go to follow their instructions, I promise you the check they sent will be fake. They are hoping you will take yourself to the bank, pass a fake check, and send them back some of the money they pretended to give you. Then when their check bounces and is fraudulent, YOU get arrested for passing bad checks, and are still responsible for the money you forwarded them. This is a nasty scam and SUPER popular. I’ve probably been propositioned by about 500 of these scammers over the last year.
Another thing to be wary of is anyone trying to pay you with anything other than money. Even money isn’t foolproof, obviously- checks can be fake, and even electronic payments can be cancelled after the fact. I have had someone offer to pay me in jewelry- unless you have an appraiser present, it could be a Cracker Jack ring they are trying to pay you with. I haven’t personally experienced it, but I have even heard rumors of models being paid with counterfeit cash. It is good to keep some sort of record of what you expect to be paid, even just for yourself, perhaps an invoice of some sort, but this is not always possible- sometimes you don’t know exactly how long you’ll be shooting/working ahead of time. The best thing you can do is be aware that you can’t really trust anyone, and take each case individually, and research the people you are working with. Check references, be paid in cash whenever possible (least likely to be fake and you can get a counterfeit detection marker to eliminate that possibility.) I think one of the best things you can do to avoid being scammed is to have witnesses present while you are working/getting paid. Scammers are less likely to scam you if you aren’t alone- they prey on vulnerability.
I was always raised that it is rude to count money in front of others- but in this business, I have had people try to short me on what I am owed. Maybe it was intentional, maybe not. It has happened to many of my model friends too, and sometimes it isn’t caught until after the model and photographer have parted ways. It’s a slimy, low move, but people will do it. Count your money (it can be discreet or in another room if you feel rude) before either one of you leaves. And always get paid before you leave the shoot site. Anyone who tries to tell you this is not standard procedure is probably trying to get away with not paying you.
Basically, always double check everything, and don’t let people take advantage of you! The difference between a new model who gets scammed and one who doesn’t, is that one of them has done his/her research- and asks others who have been in the game longer, for help!
This is just a nice, subtle reminder to any potential scammers reading this, that I am NOT the model you wanna mess with. Don't make me get my BAZOOKA!
(Photo courtesy of Dan James Photography)