2005-09-30 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer


Audrey PhefferAudrey Pheffer Many people dream of having a successful career in the modeling and entertainment industries and are willing to hand over a substantial amount of money for an opportunity to realize their dreams. Scam artists are taking advantage of these hopes. According to the New York State Consumer Protection Board and the Screen Actors Guild, many scam companies are promising people fame and fortune and charging expensive advance fees without delivering on any of their empty promises.

The scam artists often pose as talent scouts or a talent company or agency and tell people that they can achieve their dream, but only after paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for expensive photography packages, website services, or open call notices. These companies often use high-pressure tactics and offer nothing more concrete than empty promises. In fact, after taking the money, these companies do little, if anything, to find their clients work. Additionally, the website services they offer are not reviewed by any legitimate talent agencies and will not yield results. Furthermore, the open call notices offered by the scam artists are called “open call” because they are already open to the public and are not exclusive to any particular agency.

Companies that do hire models do not need an expensive photography package to decide whether or not they would hire a modeling candidate. The Consumer Protection Board advises that people interested in modeling would be better off taking one good photograph and sending it to several legitimate modeling or talent agencies, rather than spending money on photographs that will never be seen by or distributed to legitimate modeling or talent agencies. If a purported talent agency requires you to use a specific vendor or photography service, they are not a legitimate talent agency. According to the Screen Actors Guild, legitimate modeling or talent agencies never charge advance fees for photos or headshots, resumes, acting lessons, interviews, or auditions, and they generally do not advertise through the mail or in newspapers, nor do they scout for talent in shopping centers or other public places. Legitimate talent agencies do not charge talent until they have secured work in the industry, and then the agency charges a flat percentage of the performer’s earnings, usually around ten percent, as payment for the agency’s services.

New York City modeling and talent agencies are required by statute to be licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and they must be bonded.

Before signing a contract, make sure that the company or agency is licensed; check the company or agency’s background, and get copies of all agreements in writing.

To see if a company is licensed, file a complaint, or request a copy of What You Need to Know About Employment Agencies, call 212-NEW YORK if calling from outside New York City or 311 if calling from within New York City. The DCA can also be reached online at www.nyc.gov/consumers.

Consumers may also call the New York State Consumer Protection Board at 1-800-697-1220 to inquire about an agency or company’s background. To learn more about the acting industry and how to protect yourself from fraud related to the industry, visit the Screen Actors Guild’s website at www.sag.org.

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