Students warned to beware of scam for models

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2003, 12:00am

Police have warned students looking for extra holiday cash not to fall for modelling scams, in which targets are told they could earn big money as models if they pay up-front fees to improve their looks or put together a portfolio.

A former 'talent spotter' for one of the so-called agencies said that usually there was no guarantee of any work, and that victims who signed up had to pay up to $22,800 in fees.

Yau Kin-hung, acting chief inspector of the police's Commercial Crime Bureau said 10 cases of modelling fraud were reported last year but the actual number was probably higher because 'there will always be victims who decide not to report to the police for various reasons'.

'The fraudsters tend to operate at or near commercial areas. They are normally found mingling around large shopping centre entrances and MTR entrances', Mr Yau said.

Kelvin Chan, 17, found a summer job this year working as a 'talent co-ordinator' for an agency but left after a month because of the agency's tactics. 'We normally target people in their twenties as they are more likely to have credit cards or some sort of income. Our agency didn't go for really young kids as we wouldn't be able to make money out of them,' he said.

'We tell them the job we have for them is for a really important company, or the government, even though it may just be for a really small company. They are told if they don't sign [contracts with us], they won't get any more jobs. Those who do sign the full contract pay our agency $22,800.'

Sometimes there may be small modelling jobs worth about $1,000, Mr Chan said, but usually 'there is no guarantee of any job'.

Acting Chief Inspector Yau said modelling scams were carried out in several ways. The two most common methods involve placing advertisements via a front company or spotting a victim on the street.

In the street approach, the talent scout tells the victims they are ideal for modelling jobs such as commercials or fashion shoots.

In both cases, the fraudsters will project a sense of urgency to the potential victim to secure a lucrative modelling contract before another model gets the job.

The victims are then invited to the front company's office. This is typically decorated with pictures of famous models with well-dressed fashionable staff appearing to have excellent credentials.

After promises of profitable modelling jobs, the victims are urged to pay up-front for costs to cover items such as portfolios, training, membership fees, a company's commission fees, casting fees, beauty treatment courses or for a professional to 'do up their image' as soon as possible.

Acting Chief Inspector Yau said: 'The form of scams and amounts being deceived will vary depending on the profile of the potential victims, as well as their financial background'.

To protect themselves legally, the fraudsters may ask victims to sign contracts with the front firm.