Federal Trade Commission
LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! - - SCAM?
IF YOU'VE GOT "the Look" . . . LOOK OUT!
Virginia-Based Modeling Agencies
Lure Thousands of Consumers with Exaggerated Promises of Lucrative Modeling/Acting
If someone stops you on the street, hands you a
card, and tells you "you've got the look," you may be on your way
to becoming the victim of a modeling scam, the Federal Trade Commission advises. That was
the case with three Washington, D.C.-area modeling agencies that, the FTC alleged, lured
consumers into making substantial investments in their talent management services by
promising high-paying assignments with well-known entities in the entertainment and
fashion world. In fact, the FTC said, the companies' primary business was enrolling
consumers in modeling and acting classes. The FTC has charged Model 1, Inc., Creative
Talent Management, Inc., and The Erickson Agency, Inc. with misrepresenting their ability
to get lucrative job assignments for consumers as models and actors. The defendants
have agreed with the FTC to an interim court order not to engage in the practices alleged
in the complaint pending final resolution of this matter.
"If someone approaches you on the street or
on the subway, and flatters you by saying 'You've got the look that we are looking for,'
hold on to your purse strings, " said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau
of Consumer Protection. "You may be on your way to being a victim, not playing a role
or posing for pictures."
This case is part of recent Commission efforts to
stop bogus talent and modeling agents from engaging in deceptive practices. On May 27,
1999, the FTC announced that a federal District Court had temporarily halted Screen Test
U.S.A., a New Jersey based company, and its affiliates, from misrepresenting their
expertise at judging the suitability of children to become models and actors, and
misleading consumers to believe that their chances of being picked up by well-known talent
agencies were enhanced by the consumers' affiliation with Screen Test U.S.A. The
Commission announced on May 26, that it had won a permanent injunction against National
Talent Associates, another New Jersey-based seller of child-modeling services. In
addition, to further educate consumers on how to avoid being victims of a modeling
rip-off, the Commission has published a consumer brochure, "If
You've Got 'the Look' ... Look Out! Avoiding Modeling Scams." The
brochure tells consumers what the unscrupulous model and talent scouts say versus what
they actually mean.
The FTC's complaint names Model 1, Inc., based in
Tyson's Corner, Virginia, and its president, Jason Hoffman; Creative Talent Management,
Inc. and its president, Ralph Edward Bell; and The Erickson Agency, Inc. and its
president, Patricia Erickson. Both Creative Talent and The Erickson Agency are based in
McLean, Virginia. According to the complaint, the defendants represent themselves as
talent management agencies. The defendants' salespeople approach consumers in public
places -- in shopping malls and metro stations -- throughout the Washington, D.C.
metropolitan area with a line and a card. When consumers come to the defendants' office
for what they believe is a job interview, they are instead sold a package of training
classes and photographs that costs anywhere from several hundred to more than a thousand
dollars. In order to convince the consumer to pay for the training program, the defendants
falsely represent that they are highly selective in their scouting, screening and review
process; that acceptance into their training program is extremely limited; that they have
placed models and actors in many glamorous jobs, such as popular movies, tv shows, or
print ads for major retail department stores and associations, and that the applicant can
expect substantial pay as a model or actor, if accepted.
To further boost applicants' interest, the
defendants claim that their primary source of income comes from the commissions on the
modeling and acting jobs they get for consumers. In fact, according to the FTC, consumers
who completed the defendants' training program seldom receive any paid employment, and as
a result, the defendants get their income from fees paid by consumers for their management
"services" including modeling and acting classes, not commissions as they
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the
complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District
of Virginia, in Alexandria, on May 25, 1999. The FTC received tremendous assistance from
the Washington, D.C. Better Business Bureau, and the Fairfax County (VA) Department of
Telecommunications and Consumer Services.
You can file a complaint with the
FTC by contacting the Consumer Response Center by phone: 202-FTC-HELP (382-4357); TDD:
202-326-2502; by mail: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600
Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or through the Internet, using the online complaint form. Although the
Commission cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, it can act against a company
if it sees a pattern of possible law violations.
The FTC publishes free brochures on many consumer
issues. For a complete list of publications,
write for Best Sellers, Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave,
NW, Washington, D.C. 20580; or call (202) FTC-HELP (382-4357), TDD (202) 326-2502.