You know your kids are adults when they get scammed by an incorporated business for the first time. 🤗 Not a prince with an inheritance. Not a buyer who needs them to cash check and return $800 of the $850, which someone tried to pull on my son a few weeks ago. But an actual, licensed business.
It happened today to my daughter, who is 18 and adorable and who was approached via #snapchat about modeling. According to the message, “Our talent scout, scouted you about modeling & we are interested in meeting with you! 🎉 ” (Yes, I’m copying verbatim, including the emoji and the weird punctuation.)
Quick note: If you know me and my daughter, you’ll also know we’re both short. That doesn’t preclude people who are 62″ tall or less from becoming models, but the odds aren’t in our favor. But that’s not the point.
My daughter sent me the scout’s message the day she got it. Both she and I agreed it felt pretty scammy, but she wanted to go and said that “If they tried to charge me I would just not.” (BTW, it’s really difficult to type like my daughter, who has spent most of her literate life shunning capitals and punctuation, although she is getting better.) Spoiler alert: she didn’t follow through on that promise.
The contract with the agency isn’t really the problem. That the agency requires its, er, models to take classes and pay $2000 (in 8 easy installments!) for a “confidential training workshop” and for “arrangement for talent to be photographed by a professional photographer” and placed on the agency’s website IS. Incidentally, according to multiple BBB reports about the agency, the company that runs the training classes and the agency are 2 separate businesses … that share an address and an owner. But, you know, they’re not the same.
The contract includes some amazing clauses, like
- $25 fee for late payment or declined credit card transaction
- $40 for a bounced check
- 40% collection agency fee if the signer decides the only way to break this contract is by not paying the fee
- 3% fee added to any payment that isn’t cash, personal check or money order
- $500 fee for missing the photo shoot, which cannot be scheduled until the balance for trainings is paid in full and all trainings are completed and requires 7 days notice for something and … omg, the list keeps going
I worked for attorneys when I was a grad student. I’ve seen all sorts of contracts. I kinda love reading them, which I know sounds crazy, but legal terminology is a great exercise in reading comprehension. Did I mention I was a teacher previously, too?
So I read the contract carefully and found this clause:
“This contract may NOT be rescinded or cancelled based upon any so-called ’72-hour’ provision for any other reason.”
I’ve never seen the right to rescind labeled in a contract as a “so-called ’72-hour’ provision.” Obviously they had a reason for including it though. Also, if that’s not red flag enough for you, there’s this gem that was highlighted and circled b/c this scammer is serious, damnit!
“Confidentiality. Talent agrees to hold the contents of this contract confidential and not share it with anyone.” You know, don’t go telling everyone on social media that this shit is a scam.
👉 The most appalling part of all of this: my daughter signed. They butchered her name, and she felt obligated to sign this contract because she wanted the modeling contract. Every kid wants the promise of fast fame. Hell, most adults probably do, too. And a great sales pitch that promises the moon, for a price? Sign us right up.
So my daughter feels kinda 🤢 because now that she’s out of the sales pitch and sees the bigger picture and has read the BBB reports that I sent her a week ago, she realizes that she was scammed.
I’d share quotes from here here but, you know, language. Lots of F-bombs and other colorful stuff.
I don’t blame her. I had the good fortune (?) of working for a timeshare company when I was 19, where I learned ALL the scams — the company was even featured on 60 Minutes thanks to our “all-terrain vehicle” gift, which was a folding lawn-chair with wheels. I kid you not. People would drive to east Texas to pick up this amazing gift, get pressured into vacation ownership over the weekend, and pick up the phone and call customer service, aka me, on Monday. My job was to resell the pissed off interval owner and tell them all about how they signed a contract that at the time couldn’t be rescinded. I’m hoping laws have changed in the past 30 years.
In terms of my daughter’s bad signing decisions, I do, however, blame governments. We live in Utah, a state notorious for protecting businesses and sending a big FU to consumers. A state with a legislature that is so hell-bent on protecting girls who play team sports from competing against transgender competitors that it has developed a state commission to make a determination on an athlete’s gender on a case-by-case basis, although at last count, the state has had 4 transgender student athletes. Total. Ever. A state that doesn’t feel women are capable of making their own decisions about a pregnancy, at least not after a specified time and nowhere other than in a hospital. A state that has decided it should protect kids from social media and adults from the temptation of wine bottles and beer exceeding 5.0% in grocery stores. A state that, until recently, even needed to protect restaurant patrons from seeing what was happening behind the bar.
But protect people from scams? Bite your tongue! Between 2019 and 2020, Utah ranked 4th in the U.S. for scam losses. As AARP noted, “a 157% increase. The state reported over 560,000 individual fraud reports and $882M in total fraud losses. The median loss was $335.” A guest post on KSL penned, ironically, by a local personal injury attorney’s office, discussed the reasons why Utah is considered the country’s fraud capital, but fails to blame lawmakers and instead puts the blame on the trusting nature of Mormons. We’re blaming faith for being too trusting but can’t point the finger at legislatures’ religious biases when they create and pass restrictive social laws? I know, different topic.
Plus, more bad news — plenty of the scammers are of the faith (remember, we’re also the MLM capital). And plenty of the scammed, my daughter included, are not.
My point is this: legislatures and state governments can devote a massive portion of its time to protecting people, particularly children and women, drag-show attendees, diners, Kroger shoppers, etc., from making what these representatives considers dangerous. But what those governments don’t care to do is check on the nature of the businesses that are making bank from residents, guests, and citizens. The modeling agency and training businesses that scammed my daughter are owned by a Utah resident (yes, I had to dig through records to find him since the agency refused to tell me his name when I called; I then look him up on LinkedIn only to learn he and I have a handful of common connections, but it’s pretty doubtful he’ll accept my request to be friends) and have valid business licenses. From what I can tell, the owner still lives in the area … likely in a pretty sweet house, considering he’s been reaping the rewards of this scam for well over a decade now. Although I’d be lying if I denied wishing one of these houses was his.
I’m hoping my daughter learned a lesson, although it’s an expensive one. And a stupid one. And one she was warned about. But I’m also hoping against all hope that one day people will stop sucking, too.
I since I’m full of hope, I have one more: I hope I never ever understand what motivates someone to start a business solely to scam people out of their money. Personally, I’d rather be honest and simply stay poor.