Selection Scams

Selection scams are closely related to and usually follow scouting scams. It is a two-part process. First individuals are scouted by bogus scouts; then they are selected by bogus agencies.

The scouting scams and selection scams are similar but separate. They do not happen at the same time, and they are not done by the same people.

This is because scouts do not have the authority to sign new models, and because they can make it look as if they are being selective if other people are involved.

"I'll have to run this by the Talent Executive."

Scouts can only propose: they cannot decide. They can suggest one person is "model material," and good enough to be signed, but they cannot sign them.

The selection or signing of a new model is done by someone with more authority at the agency, like the president of the agency or head of the New Faces division.

The basic concept of selection scams is very simply pretending to be selective.

Most people would instantly recognize a scam if they knew everyone who was scouted was selected. Therefore the selection scam artists must make it appear as if they are being selective.

ABC News investigated one scouting firm and discovered the firm's scouts told aspiring models only 2% were selected. However, ABC News has learned by the company's own admission from its head office they accept everyone, which is to say they do not select anyone, because there is no selection involved.

The problem for aspiring models is they cannot tell if a modeling agency or scouting firm is selecting everyone or almost noone.

The head of a top agency in New York once said only 1/1,000 who applied were accepted. That is 99.9% failed to make the cut.

Scouting may be done in public, but selecting is usually not; it is more likely to be done in private, with the potential models receiving a phone call.

So how can they know if they are going to be the victims of a selection scam?

This is why it is important to do research and read news reports and stories from former employees which expose selection scams.

The FTC has a consumer protection document about Modeling Scams which includes comments on selection scams. In the section "What They Say vs. What They Mean," they explained the scam:

Representation: "You must be specially selected for our program. Our talent experts will carefully evaluate your chances at success in the field and will only accept a few people into our program."
Translation: We take almost everyone.
Representation: "There's a guaranteed refund if you're not accepted into the program."
Translation: Everyone's accepted into the program. Forget the refund.

In 1999 the Federal Trade Commission prosecuted the presidents of three modeling and talent agencies who were running modeling scams. Their modeling scams included selection scams. In describing the defendants' business activities, the attorneys for the FTC stated:

Defendants purport to provide talent management services including "jobs, job placement, industry training, photography and agency placement."
Defendants represent that they are highly selective in scouting, screening and reviewing consumers for marketability as models and actors.
Defendants' talent scouts approach prospective consumers in public places and represent that they have been selected to interview with Model 1 because they have special characteristics or the "look" that significantly increases their prospects for finding work as a model or actor.
Defendants' talent scouts tell consumers that they need to attend an interview at Model 1 to obtain modeling or acting assignments.
Defendants' talent scouts give consumers a promotional brochure that contains the following representations:
The hunt is on for new faces. MODEL 1, one of the largest talent management and scouting companies in the country, is looking for new faces. With offices in Washington, Baltimore and Richmond we have everything you need to enter the industry . . . .
When consumers attend an interview at Model 1, a person, who is identified as a Vice President of Talent Management, informs the consumer that he will recommend the consumer for talent management services but that a committee of industry experts will make the final selection.
The Vice President also tells the consumer that, as a prerequisite for agency representation, the consumer must take modeling and acting training from Model 1.
Defendants represent that their modeling and acting workshops have a limited enrollment and that only ten percent of consumers interviewed are accepted for this training.
Defendants further represent that consumers must pay a deposit for the workshops which is fully refundable if the consumer is not accepted by defendants' review committee.

Then the FTC charged the scam agencies with one count of fraud in violation of the FTC Act:

Defendants represent, expressly or by implication, that their talent management services are highly selective in scouting, screening and reviewing consumers for marketability as models or actors.
In truth and in fact, defendants' talent management services are not selective in scouting, screening and reviewing consumers for marketability as models or actors.
Therefore, defendants' representations, as set forth in paragraph 17 above, are false and deceptive, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45.

The FTC successfully prosecuted the scam modeling and talent agencies on this selection scam issue and other issues and their businesses shut down.

A similar selection scam allegedly happened at eModel open calls, according to a former model scout for the company. New Times Broward County in its published report said:

Hopefuls gathered at the Miami Beach eModel office during one of the thrice-weekly open calls, during which they were shown a video and given a tour of the Website, she says. Talent executives, who are in charge of screening models, showed applicants a series of Web pages displaying supermodels and explaining the advantages of digital photos. Music was cued for "I'm Too Sexy" as candidates sashayed down an impromptu runway. During brief one-on-one exit interviews, applicants were told they'd be invited back if they made the cut. Otherwise they'd have to wait a year to apply again. Thing is, Mendive says, virtually everyone was asked back.

According to a published report by the Virginian Pilot, another model scout for eModel also alleged there was a selection scam:

Former eModel scout Rhonda Utke said the screening process at the Florida franchise where she worked was an act. Utke started scouting for eModel last May. Three months later, she quit and filed a complaint with the Central Florida Better Business Bureau over pay she says she never received. According to Utke, the selection process she encountered was anything but selective. "It was a joke," Utke said.1

In 1999, Bob Butterworth, the Attorney General of Florida, charged a children's talent agency with deceptive trade practices, saying Tomorrow's Star's, Inc., "charged parents $45 for a video screen test and "objective" evaluation of their children as potential models and actors but gave virtually every child high test scores to entice parents into spending more money for photo sessions."

Selection scams are almost always tied in with upfront fees. Whenever there are upfront fees by the same company offering an evaluation there is a basic, clear, and significant conflict of interest. Victims of modeling scams are frequently the victims of scam artists who exploit conflicts of interest.

The statement "you've been selected" in connection with modeling can be a lot like getting the sweepstakes notice in the mail. It appears as if you have won something, no strings attached, but the fact is you have not won anything, and you cannot win anything unless and until you pay upfront fees.

The purpose of selection scams is obviously to make the person feel special. You can actually feel as if you just won a beauty pageant. But it is just another form of flattery. "We feel you are beautiful... we think you have potential as a model... you have been selected."

One woman who felt she was the victim of a modeling selection scam said: "I can't believe this. I thought I was special." She discovered the company which selected her used a telemarketing script. On her! She said she would not have spent any money upfront if she had known it was scripted.

Emotional manipulation, not surprisingly, is part of the common selection scam. In fact it can be the main focus. It is designed to stir up hopes and dreams, visions of fame and fortune, get the model hopeful all excited; then she is ready to make a quick financial decision without research or reflection.

The first thing on the telemarketing script, for example, asked the caller to be emotional; the "sales representative" making the phone call to potential models, the script said, "must be very excited and enthusiastic."

Later on in the same telemarketing script, after the potential model was asked to make a deposit, the representative was told to say: "We're very excited."

When you find out one scouting company uses a script, and you read the script, when they say, "We're very excited about how far you could go in the modeling industry," you wonder if what they are saying is: "We're very excited about how much money you can give us."

When you find out there are selection scams, when they say, "You've been selected, because we think you have real potential as a model," you can ask yourself if what they really mean is: "You've been selected because you have real potential to give us your money."

Not all firms are scams; many agencies are sincere; and each one is going to tell people they want to represent that they have been selected. So how do you know when you are hearing an honest opinion, and when you are being exposed to a selection scam?

The short answer is you need to see if there is a conflict of interest which would give them ulterior motives. The easiest way to discern that is if they require upfront fees. Are they trying to sell you something?

Is it a setup? Are they using the "you've been selected" pickup line to get you to spend money for some product or service, i.e. online portfolio hosting, modeling photos, a modeling school, a modeling convention, a model search, or magazine advertising?

Don't forget, most of the people offering to represent or help jump start a modeling career are complete strangers. They have done nothing to earn your trust. Therefore why would you trust them with your money?



2. Investigation of a Local Modeling Agency.