“Baby, You Ought to Be In Pictures”: 5 Steps to Avoiding a Scam

“Excuse me, can I talk with you for a moment? Your child is beautiful and has real start potential! She’s just what we’re looking for,” says the woman standing at the kiosk in the center of the mall. There are photos of smiling faces all around and signage that tells you this woman should know a thing or two about what makes a star. You might think: She’s a talent scout, after all. And of course, she’s right. My child is positively adorable with those sparkling eyes and generous, toothy grin. 

But wait. Before you take a step forward and engage in a conversation about the future of your child star, there are some things you need to know. It’s important to recognize the difference between a legitimate opportunity and a scam.

Money up front is a no-go.
Real agents get paid when you do. They find you work and are paid on commission. If you’re being asked to pay up front to be represented, it’s time to walk away. 

There is no such thing as a sure thing. 
The woman in the mall is so sure of your child’s unique and wonderful qualities that she guarantees success. Real agents know this is a tough industry and there is no guarantee. No matter how attractive or talented an actor may be, there is no such thing as a sure thing. If the person standing before you is promising bookings and wealth, think twice.  

The countdown is on
A high-pressured sales pitch begins with a great set of promises and ends with a sense of urgency. If the person you’re speaking with begins to talk about ‘limited space’ or a deadline to provide your answer (and your upfront fees), you’re being scammed. A legitimate opportunity has some shelf-life to it. You should have time to research the company you’re considering. If you are being told you must act immediately, move on.

There’s a photo package involved
Yes, if your child is interested in pursuing work in the entertainment industry, he’s going to need a head shot. An agency requiring you to use their photographer should be another red flag. As the FTC notes, a legitimate agency will allow you to use a photographer of your choice. Young children, whose look is going to change at a fast clip, may be able to use snapshots and not the more formal professional headshots. 

Titles, locations and more
Do your research. Before you sign anything, spend time researching a prospective agency, as well as the industry in general. As an example, the mere fact that this organization is recruiting at a mall kiosk is a potential sign that this may be a scam. Also, the woman told you she’s a talent scout – another warning sign – as that title is not a generally accepted position in the industry.  Still tempted? Ask for a business card and then go home and Google for more information.

Be cautious, informed, and diligent, and you will be able to discern legitimate agencies from scam enterprises.