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LEGAL MATTERS: Modeling Scams

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 

Most people recognize the warped priorities of parents who obsessively enter their children in child beauty pageants like those on Toddlers and Tiaras. As creepy as the pageants promoters are, there is nothing misleading about what they offer parents in exchange for their entry fees: the chance to strut their child around a hotel ballroom trying to win oversized trophies.

But, as your children get older, you may be confronted by a more dubious group of charlatans, who appear less pathetic than the child pageant promoters, but who use outright fraud get you to part with your money. Those swindlers are found in the swelling ranks of talent agents, scouts, schools and photographers involved in the teen modeling industry. Their calling card is often an invitation for your child to take part in a modeling convention sponsored by an organization like the IMTA.

Buyer (and models) beware

Years ago the New York Post exposed the International Modeling and Talent Association’s ‘conventions’ as well produced events designed to separate aspiring performers and models from their money – thousands and thousands of dollars in many cases. According to media reports, local talent and modeling agencies dupe parents into forking over money for classes to get ready for IMTA conventions with the promise that their children will be scouted by big-time agents.

They point parents to the fancy IMTA web site and brag about a handful of stars who attended an IMTA event. (Note well those stars probably have not endorsed the IMTA and they have anything to do with it now.) The reality is all your child is likely to get out of a convention is a very expensive vacation and the chance to pretend to be an actor or model in front of a bunch of adults who are pretending to be industry titans.

A variation on the convention gimmicks are ‘open call’ auditions scammers have been advertising on the radio in New England lately. The ads grab your attention by mentioning Disney stars (even though Disney has nothing to do with the events) and urge you to call to reserve a time for your child to meet with a talent agent. Guess what? The agent is going to love your child and promise you his or her ‘look’ is just what Hollywood is looking for. Some bottom feeders in the industry may even approach you or your child in a mall with the same hollow promise. Trust me though, the only potential the agents see is the potential to squeeze money out of you for professional photos, coaching and talent classes.

My advice is:

Run away from any agency that takes part in an IMTA event.

Be leery of similar events by the Modeling Association of America International (MAAI), IPOP competitions, Millie Lewis Actors, Models & Talent Competitions (AMTC), and International Talent Showcases (ITS).

Read about common modeling and acting scams at this Federal Trade Commission web site or this Better Business Bureau page.

John Longo is a consumer rights attorney practicing law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He represents consumers who have disputes with businesses, employees cheated out of their wages or overtime, car buyers stuck with Lemons, and people in need of bankruptcy protection. He is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and the Rhode Island Association for Justice.

 

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