Warning Signs


  • Unsatisfactory record at the Better Business Bureau

  • Pattern of complaints at the BBB

  • Unanswered complaints at the BBB

  • Claim Al Capone started the BBB

  • Conflict of interest

  • Upfront fees

  • High prices

  • High sales pressure

  • Guaranteed work

  • No website

  • No tear sheets

  • No client list

  • Pricing not on website

  • Hidden fees

  • Extra expenses (total cost) not communicated

  • Not up front about basic important issue(s)

  • Website FAQ does not answer basic important question(s)

  • Training not free

  • Online portfolio not free

  • Specific photographer required

  • Manipulation to use specific photographer

  • Agency makes profit from photography

  • Website address of "professional photographer" not provided

  • Company has its own photographer or own photo studio

  • Pictures taken by photographer do not look professional

  • High fees for web portfolio

  • High fees for infant photos

  • Professional photos for infants

  • Professional photos for kids under four years old

  • Most models make less money than they pay for photos

  • Late payments for completed work

  • Leaders have history of fraud

  • Leaders previously prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission

  • No agency license

  • Published news reports allege fraud, greed, corruption

  • The words "scam" or "fraud" are often used in online discussions of the company

  • Local media issued warnings and consumer alerts

  • State consumer protection agency issued warnings and consumer alerts

  • False/misleading/unsubstantiated advertising

  • Claim famous agencies use the company to seek models

  • Claim top agencies use the internet to seek models

  • Claimed/implied affiliation with celebrities

  • Claim they started the career(s) of supermodel(s)

  • Claim supermodels use the service

  • Claim supermodel started the company

  • Company promotes lucrative modeling but its models only get "minimum-wage" "modeling"

  • Company talks like an agency, or says it is an agency, but it is not an agency, and has no license

  • Pictures of models on the office wall also available at K-Mart

  • Company name includes "International" but it has no offices in other countries and no model placement in other countries

  • Slams other types of modeling businesses (convention slamming schools; schools slamming conventions)

  • New company

  • Payment only accepted in cash or money order

  • No receipt given unless asked

  • Imbalance in financial risk (one-sided for consumer)

  • No money-back guarantee

  • No refunds

  • Company makes profit even if models get no work

  • Company's models do not look like models/have not received work

  • Company seeks long-term exclusive model contract with new/untested model

  • Firm does not mention and BBB record does not include its success rate (placement record)

  • Model scouts are not model bookers

  • Model scouts are paid by the number of people they recruit, not the amount of work the models get

  • Company recruits models in state(s) where it has no office(s)

  • Company seeks quota (x number of new models)

  • Company pretends to be highly selective ("only 2% are selected" and 98% fail, when in reality it is more like 98% who are selected and 2% fail)

  • Use of important-sounding positions like "Talent Executive" which require no training and no skill

  • Claims someone else (who is important) has to make the selection decision to make them appear to be selective

  • Very high new model selection rate

  • Very high ratio of models to staff

  • Company runs a national photo directory (online/print)

  • Overall impression the company is really most interested in making/taking money

  • Business plan designed for fast, easy money (requires low effort, low experience, low skill, low performance)

  • The "free open call" or "free audition" is nothing more than a contrived meeting for a sales pitch (to sell classes, convention, online portfolio hosting, etc.)

  • It would be difficult to hold the company accountable if the model signed a contract because the agency is in another state

  • Address is only a PO Box number, not a street address

  • Business partnerships which create conflict of interest (e.g. schools with agency; schools with convention; agency with photographer; photographer with convention)

  • Convention contestants not screened by agents with photos prior to convention

  • Oral representations different from written representations

  • Nothing in writing

  • Emphasis of marketing to aspiring models is the (models') future potential not the (company's) past; fame ("you could be a star"), money ("you could make millions"), the dream, etc.

  • Emphasis of marketing is call backs (low standard), not placement rate (high standard)

  • Little if any time given to background check company and review contract

  • Minimal or minimum cooling-off period allowed to change mind

  • Representation to aspiring/untested/new model that work will be offered immediately, be easy to get, and pay extremely well

  • Most work the agency gets is for events ("promotional"), not print, not editorial, not commercial, not fashion

  • Calls itself a modeling school when it is more accurately called a finishing school or a charm school

  • Represents training at a finishing school is required to become a model

  • Claims a model must be trained to be signed

  • New models are not signed until they have paid for training

  • "The last place is still open"