Across a lot of websites there's been an increase in the number of internet scams targeting actors and models. At the end of this article you'll find an example of a recent scam to be on the lookout for.
Backstage has a number of security measures in place to help keep scammers off of Backstage.com, but sometimes you might still run into scammers. So when looking at casting calls on any site, or when receiving messages from casting personnel you haven't worked with before, please keep an eye out for the following 11 warning signs:
- Bad Grammar & Strange Emails: The majority of casting scams are from foreigners with a bad understanding of English and entertainment-industry terminology. It's also common for scammers to write out their email addresses in odd ways, such as 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. And these scammers may also use nonsensical job titles and obviously fake names (e.g., "Jimmy Freelancer"), etc.
- Prepayment: No real project will offer to pay you upfront before you've actually done any work for them. Scammers, however, will frequently offer to pay upfront to try and gain your trust (but you'll never get any real money from them) or to try and trick you into revealing your banking details, or to try and talk you into wiring them some money back in return, etc.
- Check Sent in the Mail: A popular "prepayment" method among scammers is to FedEx or priority-mail a check to their intended victim to gain their trust. The check will bounce within a few days after you deposit it. The scammers will try to trick you into sending them money before you discover that the check is worthless.
- False Identities: 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.
- Modeling Jobs: The majority of casting scams are for modeling gigs. Although there are lots of real model casting calls as well, be extra cautious when considering modeling opportunities.
- 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.
- Address Requests: Scammers will often imply that you've been hired but ask you to send them some additional info first, including your home address. A real project wouldn't usually need your full home address upfront.
- Wire Transfers: Scammers will often come up with a variety of excuses for why you need to wire them money. They'll even offer to pay you extra in exchange for wiring some money back to them. Unknown to you, the money you wire will be picked up by the scammers' associates using a different name, likely in a different country, and then they'll disappear with the money. Never wire any stranger money, ever.
- No Casting Notices: Although some scammers will try to post a fake casting call online to supplement their scam emails, most scammers do not bother to take this extra step. So if someone you've never heard of before emails you out of the blue offering to cast you in a project and they don't have a casting notice that they can link back to for more details, then you should be suspicious!
- Nudity & Inappropriate Requests: If a project asks you to send them anything you're not comfortable sending them, or if they ask you to do anything at an audition or on set that you're not comfortable with – such as an unexpected request for nudity or any other unusual, strange, unprofessional, or innappropriate requests – don't be afraid to say "no." Trust your instincts, and walk away from potentially bad situations.
- 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. However, if fees were not mentioned in the original casting call, and then the producers surprise you with unexpected fees or other dubious obligations, 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.
PRIVACY TIP: If you ever need to upload your resume online (including to your profile on Backstage.com), consider removing your email address, phone number, and mailing address from your resume first. Some scammers look for resumes online so they can contact actors directly. On Backstage.com you don't need to list an email address on your resume, because casting directors can instead contact you through the Backstage contact-form on your profile, which keeps your email address private until you choose whether or not to respond to the message.
Likewise, if a casting call is accepting submissions via both direct-email and Backstage's online submission system, the safest route to apply is typically via Backstage's system, which delivers your submission materials without revealing your email address. And you can then also coorespond with the production via Backstage's messaging system without revealing your email address. This way, if a scammer is discovered, Backstage can stop them from contacting you further by shutting down their account; whereas if you email a scammer directly, they'll be able to continue emailing you back even after they've been banned from Backstage.
For more tips, check out Backstage's "How to Avoid a Casting Scam" guide.
Below is an example of a scam that's being sent to actors. The message is from "Jason Bell" but it's not the real Jason Bell. And the message mentions Backstage, but this scammer is not really casting on Backstage and did not send his message via Backstage.com. The scammers are just referencing Backstage and this photographer to make themselves sound legit, when in reality they're a scam:
From: Jason Bell
Subject: Casting call
Hello my name is Jason Your resume was shared to us on backstage.com. I am a professional photographer. we are seeking female/male models, We have a job offer for you to work with our client Fashion Outfit (VALENTINO). i will like to know if you are interested so i can send more details about the job. i will be waiting to hear back from you.
Project coordinator/Professional photographer
Jason Bells Photography
Profile Modeling Agency
These types of scammers are also known to target anyone in the entertainment industry, including models, actors, performers, and even production crew.
If you ever encounter a scam casting notice on Backstage.com or receive a suspicious email that references Backstage, please report the problem by contacting Backstage here. At Backstage, we're dedicated to eliminating scammers.