Casting scams are an unfortunate, but very real, aspect of the online casting process. Backstage has a team of editors committed to weeding out any potential acting or modeling scams to ensure the safety of our community, but as scammers become more sophisticated in their tactics, it’s essential for actors to stay vigilant. Here’s how to tell the difference between a legitimate casting call and a fake casting notice—and how to react if you’re contacted by a potential scammer.
The best way to determine if a casting agency is legit is to visit their website, social media pages, IMDb, or any other links showing evidence of their past work. While confidentiality is sometimes a concern for serious casting directors, they should have no issue providing you with plenty of information to confirm their legitimacy. Scammers will sometimes use the names of real people and real companies. They may even link to the real websites of the people they're pretending to be. But if you check the scammer's email address, phone number, and project details against the details of the real people, you'll find they don't match up.
It also helps to know showbiz basics. Submit your headshot and résumé, get called in, audition, get hired, do the work, get paid. That’s the way it generally works. Unless you’re well established, you aren’t going to get hired without auditioning or, for a modeling job, without being seen in person. And very few people get paid up front.
To spot a casting scam, actors should be aware of a few common red flags: odd spellings or incorrect grammar, email addresses written out with parentheses or special characters, and offers to pay you in advance. Below, we’ve listed out some of the most common signs of a scammy casting notice:
- Bad grammar: The majority of casting scams are from foreign individuals with a limited command of English and entertainment-industry terminology. These scammers may also use nonsensical job titles and obviously fake names (e.g., "Jimmy Freelancer"), etc.
- Strange email addresses: It’s also common for scammers to write out their email addresses in odd ways, using spaces, parentheses, brackets, or other special characters. For instance, they might format their email address like casting [@] example [dot] com. Beware of any casting calls using that technique.
- Prepayment: No legitimate project will offer to pay you upfront before you've actually done any work for them. Scammers, however, will frequently offer to pay upfront—although you'll never get any real money from them—or try and trick you into revealing your banking details.
- Casting without an audition: Although some real projects will also cast actors online without meeting them first, it's more common among scammers to claim they want to hire you without even meeting you first.
- No locations: Casting scams will often say they're “shooting near you” without being specific about the state where the project is taking place. Or they'll even change the state to match your location if you tell them that you've moved.
- Unexpected fees: If an opportunity requires any sort of legitimate payment from you to participate (e.g., a membership fee to join a community theater or an entry fee to enter a talent competition), then the fee requirements should be clearly spelled out in their original listing. If the producers surprise you with fees (or other dubious obligations) that weren’t mentioned in the original casting call, then be wary. This could be a case of a pay-to-play or bait-and-switch scam, and should be reported to Backstage immediately.
Ultimately, if a casting call appears to be too good to be true, oftentimes it is. A job offering thousands of dollars or massive exposure—but providing little-to-no information about the gig itself—is almost guaranteed to be a scam.
Below is an example of a common casting scam posted to Backstage. Reminder: The yellow “Instant Access” banner means that a Backstage editor has yet to vet the job poster or the casting call itself.
The first major red flag is the fact that the scammer has included an email address in the production description, hoping to bypass more protected channels of communication. Backstage actually filters out any casting notices that include an email address in the production description—which is why the scammer has used an asterisk instead of the normal dot-com email address. Also note the un-Googleable alias “Jimmy Turner,” another common scamming tactic.
Further down the page, this casting call raises even more alarms. The role name and production dates fields include clunky English phrases (“Next Month Edition”; “Next edition date will be announced”) that are evasive and lack details. The exorbitant hourly pay sounds great, but is clearly a red flag.
Backstage editors typically catch these scams quickly, but if there is a backlog of jobs posted to the site, it may take a few hours before a scam is dealt with. Scanning a casting notice for any obvious red flags before applying to a role on Backstage helps keep you and the community safe.
If a casting call appears suspicious, or the casting director’s behavior seems strange or scammy, there are a number of ways to protect yourself—like keeping conversations on the casting platform and carefully documenting any conversations with the casting team. Here are four things actors can do to avoid getting scammed:
- Keep conversations on-platform. If a casting director wants to take the initial conversation about a casting call into a private email exchange, explain that you feel more comfortable communicating through the Backstage messaging system. This keeps potential scammers from getting access to your personal email address (thus opening you up to more scam messages). Plus, keeping conversations on Backstage allows us to keep a record of the casting director’s messages.
- Document everything. When possible, take screenshots and save relevant files to your phone or computer to keep a paper trail of your contact with the casting director. This works as protection against any fraudulent attempts by the casting director—but can also be helpful when it comes to future invoicing.
- Ask questions. Pressing a casting director for more information is a good way to weed out any potential scams. If you are skeptical about a notice on Backstage, ask for more details on shoot locations, call time sheet, links to their previous work, the pay structure for the production, etc.
- Reach out to Backstage. If you think a casting call has been approved to Backstage by mistake, or you are skeptical about a casting director’s communication with you, you can escalate the issue to Backstage via our Customer Service team. From there, we can investigate the issue and determine the best course of action.
Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.