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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Modeling Scam Alert Update: They're Getting Smarter!!!

(If you haven't done so already, PLEASE read my blog post "Modeling Scam Alert" first, which will put this modeling scam alert update into better perspective for you.)

Boy, I tell ya, these scammers are doing everything they can to entice gullible and naive models into bad situations. If you read my post about the Modeling Scam Alert, you'll know that these guys will do whatever they can to convince models that their assignment is legitimate, will give them tons of exposure and a huge paycheck.

Well, they've stepped up their game--how do I know this? They "almost" got me. By that, I mean, my scammer spidey sense started tingling but I pursued the opportunity a bit further to make sure I was right. What really confirmed my suspicions was that the dummies actually tried to scam me twice...after receiving the first "reply offer" via email, a few days later I got another offer for a different modeling assignment BUT the body of the message was almost exactly the same as the first one...the only thing that was different was the name of the client and the "photographer" in charge of the shoot. To add the cherry on top, both projects were scheduled for the SAME WEEKEND in February! Needless to say, I don't believe in those kinds of coincidences.

Their posting online seemed regular enough but after I submitted, the email correspondence that followed began to smell a bit fishy to me...but don't worry, I didn't get scammed and I didn't lose out on any money. Below are some points that show the scammers are getting smarter by tweaking their offer so that it doesn't resembles their scams of the past (be on the lookout for these signs when submitting yourself to freelance modeling opportunities):

They're Using Legit Designers as the So-Called Client, Instead of Magazine Publications

In the past, I've gotten this scammer offer that was disguised as a legit opportunity to work with a popular fitness magazine. Well, the scammers must know that while working with publications like magazines are all well and good, models get more excited about opportunities to work with actual designers.

The reply I got back from the so-called casting, claimed that the chosen models would be working with a famous jewelry designer. I looked up the name of the jewelry designer mentioned in the message--she does exist but I'm pretty sure she doesn't know that her name and business are being associated with this scam (I've already contacted her company's customer service to alert them of the situation).

They Have An Explanation for Their Bad Grammar

Remember how I mentioned before that emails with exceedingly poor grammar is sometimes a sign of a scammer? Well, these guys now have a way to explain why their email message is written so awkwardly--they state that they are from another country, which is why their written English isn't very good. How convenient (that's sarcasm, btw).

A few paragraphs up in this post I had mentioned that the scammers sent me two different offers...in the first reply offer email, the "photographer" said he was originally from Spain and that's why this English wasn't very good. In the second reply offer email, that "photographer" explained that he was from Germany and didn't have a good grasp of written English. Really? Gimme a break!

They Use An Actual Model Release Form to Get Your Info

In the past, the body of the email would contain a very sloppily formatted list of info the scammers required models to fill out in order to send them part of the upfront payment for their services. The weird formatting was a dead giveaway that it was copied and pasted into the email, which allows the scammers to send out email blasts without having to retype everything.

They've since learned from that mistake and now include an attachment, which is titled "Contract" or "Contract Agreement Form." It asks for your name, date of birth, mailing address, email address, contact info and stats/measurements. It looks pretty legit at first glance--it even names the client and the title of the shoot project, as well as contains clauses that describe the duties of the Model and the Client, including the payment arrangement.

What it all boils down to is that they've learned a new way to repackage crap. You can put poop into a nice fancy box with a colorful ribbon but at the end of the day, it's still poop.

They Contact You to Check In on the Status of Your Submission

Whenever I submit myself to freelance modeling opportunities, I include my cell phone number. It's a business decision and so far I haven't had any issues...most times I'm dealing with real clients anyway and they need to have a way to contact me aside from email. Well, the first "photographer" that sent me the reply offer email actually texted me to see if I had received the Contract Agreement form. I couldn't believe it at first. I ignored the text. It's a scam anyway so why should I care that he's waiting on me to reply back?

They've Got Personality

The scammers want to gain your trust so they'll add in little tidbits of information about themselves to make you feel like you "know" them. The first photographer (from Spain) told me in great detail about the name of his wife, how long they've been married and the names of his children. What does that have to do with anything related to the modeling assignment? Sure, I befriend photographers I work with all the time but they've never volunteered intimate info in this way before ever even meeting me.

The scammer also gave me some brief background on the jewelry designer, where she was born, her career highlights, etc. While that was nice, the info he provided was taken right from a Wikipedia article about the designer. I almost died from laughter when I found that out.

They Don't Mention Sending Your Advanced Payment to Anyone

They do this on purpose so you aren't immediately onto their scam. They'll instead wait for you to confirm that you received the money and from there will further instruct you as to what to do with the funds. Just because they don't mention it doesn't mean it's not gonna happen.

They Create Actual Online Profiles on Social Networking Sites

Before, the scammers used to find models online and contact them directly with their offer. But they've learned that raises red flags so they've gotten with the program and now post legit looking casting calls on social networking sites like Facebook, Model Mayhem, etc.

They go out of their way to upload photos, write a little blurb about themselves and whatever else they need to do so that they're free to post castings, in the hopes that unsuspecting models will reply. These fake profiles don't stay up too long though and are typically deleted after a few days. They end up just creating new ones anyway with different names and photos, which keeps the scam fresh and hard to trace back.

Despite these new approaches, many of the core elements of the scam have remained the same:
  •  They want to hire models for their seemingly "huge" modeling opportunities without ever meeting the models face-to-face through a casting
  • They Promise big payouts (the first offer I got was for $2,000 and the second was for $1,500)
  • They explain that they'll mail the upfront, advanced payment to the model (no legit casting/client I've come across has EVER given a model an advance on the money BEFORE the shoot)
  • They mention that the shoot will take place in a "rented studio" (this is a specific phrase they use in their messages) that is conveniently located near the city/state where the model lives. They add this part in so that it makes sense to the model when the scammer asks them to take some of the money they've mailed them for the upfront payment in order to send it to the "studio manager" to hold the venue for the shoot. Only thing is, the studio manager doesn't exist and no actual shoot is ever going to happen.
The way the scammers "get you" is that the funds used for the advanced payment they mail are actually stolen funds from a random person's bank account. The model receives the payment--usually in the form of a money order--and is then asked to send the money to the studio manager. The bank won't be alerted of the stolen funds right away so it provides a window of time for the scam to operate.

The model then cashes the money order, deposits it into his/her account and sends off the percentage required to the fake studio manager, who is actually part of the scam. Because it isn't smart to mail cash, models will typically write a check for the required amount, unless they're asked to wire the funds over. The scammers get away with the real money and you're left with no client or shoot to participate in.

Models, if you get any offer similar to the one I've described above and/or in my other post about this subject, delete it and don't even bother responding. If you have to reply back, just tell them that you're no longer available to participate in the opportunity, then ignore/delete any further correspondence and they'll eventually stop contacting you.

1 comment:

jane said...

Modeling scam is everywhere! another scam happening in California.