If they get a positive response, the scammer sets the hook. It could be based on the Nigerian scam: they say they will send a portion of the promised fees and expenses by certified check. The victim is then asked to deposit the check in his account, and use the money for various purposes (booking airline tickets to the event, for instance). But the amount sent is much larger than what is needed for the tickets, so the victim is asked to return some of the money to the sender.
When the scam works, the victim sends off a refund of the ďexcessĒ payment, only to find later that the ďcertified checkĒ they got from the scammer was a forgery. When it bounces, the victim is out the ďrefundĒ he sent to the scammer.
Another version is simpler: they ask for lots of information about the victim, and then use identity theft to charge the victimís accounts.
So how to avoid getting taken? You need to understand some painful facts:
- Never withdraw money from a deposited ďcertified checkĒ until your bank confirms that they have collected the funds. Normally that takes a week or so. Ask your banker, and they will be happy to tell you the status of the deposit. Then wait another two weeks - banks have been known to say bogus checks have been cleared when they have not.
- If you arenít with a major agency, nobody is going to fly you thousands of miles and pay you thousands of dollars for a mainstream modeling job. Doesnít happen. For the kinds of money they offer, there are plenty of agencies with qualified models, right near where the job is Ė or willing to send their models to where the job is. Clients with big bucks arenít going to take a chance on an unknown when they can get the guarantees of working with an agency.
- Nobody will send you large amounts of money up front for a modeling job. If a miracle strikes and you do get hired for a job you have to fly to, they will make the reservations and buy tickets for you. Same for the hotel. They certainly arenít going to send you the money and then cross their fingers and hope you show up.
- Nobody overpays up front, and then asks for a refund up front. Again, if in some Alice in Wonderland world someone were to send you money up front for a trip, they would just collect the overage when you arrived for the job, or take it out of your modeling fees after the job was over. They certainly wouldnít ask you to send it to them before the trip ever began.
- Nobody will ask you to pay them for a service as part of getting the job. If they want you, for instance, to purchase a ďmodeling licenseĒ that they claim is necessary, and happen to know an attorney who can get it for you, itís a scam.
- If they canít spell, it isnít real. These scammers arenít unemployed grammar teachers. They almost always write offering letters that are full of obvious errors. Real international companies with the kinds of money they claim to be able to throw around can hire someone who speaks your language well to communicate with you.
If you get an offer from someone far from you who wants you to travel for a high fee, and somehow none of the above red flags seem to apply, you have a source of help: the best modeling agency near you. With that kind of money at stake, if itís real you just got qualified to be an agency model. Yes, they will take a commission Ė but they will also do the research, understand what is real and what is not, and stand behind you if you do end up thousands of miles away where you donít know anyone. So take that offer, or that check, down to your local agency, tell them you want to give them a piece of it, and see what happens. If the job is fake, 20% of nothing is nothing, so thatís what it cost you to find out. And if it happens, against all odds, to be real, the money to find that out will be well spent.