Be Both Brainy and Beautiful—Don’t Be Taken Advantage by Modeling Scams

Modeling opportunities can be very enticing for fresh-faced individuals. Whether interested in a modeling career, looking to make a few extra bucks or think your child might have a future in acting or modeling, be on the lookout for scammers. The Better Business Bureau warns that some modeling agencies are just trying to make a fast buck and don’t deliver on promises of fame and fortune.

In the last 12 months alone, would-be models have researched agencies with the BBB nearly 8,800 times. Unfortunately, the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois received 68 complaints in that same time period from those who feel they were misled by an agency.

“Modeling can be a great, fun way to supplement your income, but signing up with a deceptive talent agency may be a waste of time and money,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Even if the agency tells you that you or your child have ‘the look’, always take the time to do your research and not just fall for empty promises.”

Katherine Roche of Chicago, Ill. stated, “I saw a posting on Craig’s List for movie extras. They just asked for a photo of me and $50 to get into their database. They promised that they could get you jobs in 3-6 months or they would refund your money. I live in Chicago and they sent me info on two jobs, one in Los Angeles and one in Atlanta. They were just mass e-mails with information on casting calls. I called to say that these were not in my area and the person said that they would try to send some closer to where I live. I never heard from them again. I have called and sent at least 75 e-mails and I want a refund.”

John Wang, another complainant from Algonquin, Ill. stated, “My wife and daughter went to see them. They asked if the company could get modeling jobs for my daughter and they said yes. We asked if she needed education or training and they said no. They took some pictures of her right in the office that were supposed to be professional photos and weren’t. They charged $500 for the pictures. My wife signed the contract without reading it. We looked online at the Better Business Bureau report a day or two after they went and when we saw how bad it was we called and asked to cancel and get a refund. They said no. They cancelled our right to go into their website and kept our money.”

Before signing up with a modeling or talent agency, the BBB recommends:

  • Do Your Research – Illinois requires a talent agency or modeling school to be licensed and bonded; confirm the company meets those requirements. Always check the company out with the Better Business Bureau by visiting
  • Beware of Big Promises and High Pressure Sales Pitches – In the modeling world, income is never guaranteed and jobs can be sporadic. Consider it a red flag if the sales pitch promises many jobs and big earnings or uses high pressure tactics to get you to sign up. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Read the Fine Print and Get Everything in Writing – Take time and read the agreement or contract carefully, paying close attention to details regarding refunds and options if dissatisfied. Make sure that all verbal promises are in the agreement. 
  • Complain if You’ve Been Ripped Off – If you feel you’ve been misled by a modeling or talent agency, file a complaint with your BBB at  

For more advice on finding businesses and services you can trust, visit 
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