I recently became aware of two new scams. Here's how they work.
I've encountered three different sitatuions over the past week where individuals have had photos stolen by someone in an attempt to sale the photos.
First, I will say that I realize there are many people who do sale photos of themselves. I don't judge. Personally, I have a job, income, and I don't need to sale photos. If I didn't have a job, I'd probably see things very differently. No one in their right mind would pay for a photo of me anway so I've never had to personally make that decision. I've been asked my opinion in private, and I've offered it (basically, it's "put a lot of thought into it first.") but that's not what this is about. My position here is not to judge anyone but to say that the decision to sale photos should be made by the individual in the photos. Not by someone claiming to be the individual.
Here's how the scam works. An Instagram account pretending to be a local young lady whom I do not know personally but have mutual friends with started following me on Instagram. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the page. It was all exclusively swimsuit photos made at the lake, beach, etc. There was not one single photo that was not a swimsuit photo on this IG page. Nothing at all risque or that was not "G Rated" with the exception of one of the photos had words added stating that to see more "explicit" photos, read the bio section for the link. On the top bio section, it mentioned a local college, other standard stuff that was accurate including the individual's name. And then it linked to one of the websites where photos can be sold. It became quickly obvious that this account was using the correct name of the person in the photos, along with the correct school information. Real name, real school, town, etc, but not made by the person it was claiming to be. Most fake accounts use a fake name. It was a very authentic and convincing IG page. So, I located the "real" page of the person being impersonated. The same swimsuit photos were on that page too, but they were interspersed throughout many other photos probably going back years and years. None of these photos had words such as "explicit." This IG page had a considerably more wholesome vibe due to numerous factors. It was representative of a young lady who typically wears clothing appropriate for whatever environment she happens to be in while living a productive life that involves going to work, school and occasionally to the lake or beach with family and friends. The swimsuit photos, by themselves, were not inappropriate but if that's all you see along with the words "explicit," it comes across as considerably less wholesome to some people.
So, this put me in the position of having to send a message to a young lady that I've never met explaining that I suspect a weird creepy guy is selling her photos while trying not to come across as a weird creepy guy myself. That's not as easy as it seems. Especially when you cultivate a weird creepy image intentionally to eliminate superficial people from your life.
That occured at the end of last week. Since then, I'm personally aware of two more occurences. The second was from a semi-local musician, with much talent and a promising career who uses social media thoughtfully and wisely and who leads a very active wholesome life and occasionally goes to the beach/lake also. This fake IG account used her real name, real career, etc. And it contained a link claiming to lead to the same type photos.
I can't mention the specifics of the third but it's safe to say that it has resulted in some very negative consequences that the impersonated person definitely doesn't deserve.
My normal rants about predators/scams in the modeling bidness always include the two big rules of always check references and always take along someone with you on photoshoots if you don't know the photographer really well. I stand by these two rules, but honestly, neither would have worked here. A creepy photographer probably wasn't the culprit. So, what is the answer here? I'm open to suggestions. I don't know. But I think part of the answer would be to remain vigilante. Be aware that this is happening, and watch out for your friends. If you get a friend request, follower, etc, pay attention and let the real person who is being impersonated know. Collectively, if we all put a tiny bit of effort into this, I think we can put a dent in this sort of thing. When identified, report the page to IG (or whoever). And get others to report it too.
Prior to detailing the second scam I will explain that many photographers, from time to time, will work for free to build portfolio, obtain images, test ideas, etc. I do that myself, but considerably less frequently now than a decade ago. And this is legit. That's not to say that caution should not be used, and references should not be checked! Creeps, predators, and scammers do it to. Check references. Ask "does he actually get photos to you?" Some photographers don't follow through.
The second scam is probably not that new, but a person who has been very reliable in the past when passing on such info made me aware of some modernizations and new twists. And it was explained to me in a way that offers a bit more insight.
It starts with a "Modeling Contest." People, usually young and maybe not as experienced in dealing with the world, are asked to enter a modeling contest. The prize that is promised usually involves a makeover, spa services, or something along those lines in addition to a portfolio shoot and a modeling contact. The contract will be just "agency representation" stating that if the agency gets you work, you owe them a cut. That's how legit agencies work, but this agency won't come through for you and the contract is just a worthless prop.
Anyway, people enter the contests in droves. The entrants are reviewed not so much for a look that is commercially marketable, but to identify those who will possibly fall for it. Multiple people are contacted and told that they won. Contact info is obtained and the winners, each of whom think they are the only one, are contacted. A shoot as well as some sort of pampering experience is scheduled several weeks out. The "winner" is ecstatic and tells all his/her friends. He/She is thrilled, and possibly even brags a bit. Numerous memes with positive affirmations are posted about the importance of believing in one's self when the haters put you down. He/She wants the world to know that a professional photographer / modeling agency thinks she has the potential to be the next big thing. When I was young, I would have fell for it and responded that way. It's natural. People have aspirations of being a famous star or model.
The spa session and shoot happens. The resulting photos, shown later in a follow up meeting are good. It is at this time that the victim learns that what was won was the "experience," and not photos. To get the photos, money must be paid.
What is not being disclosed up front is that the photos are extra. Usually a lot extra.
Many of us would just walk away at this point. But this is an individual who was selected because it was felt he/she would be made very happy by winning, and who has bragged to family, friends, and the world. The choices are to walk away empty handed with nothing to show or buy the photos. Choice one potentially will make you look foolish and open the door to claims that maybe you really don't have what it takes after all to be the next big thing. Choice two means you spend money (usually a lot), get some pics, and maintain the illusion.
So, what is the solution here? Ask questions. Specifically, will there at any point be an attempt to sale me something such as acting classes, photos, etc? If the answer is no, ask "Can I get that in writing?" If not, walk away. Even if it is put into writing, do some research.
There are various Facebook modeling safety groups out there that are moderated by people much more knowledgeable than me. Anyone interested in joining, let me know. You can check references, ask questions about offers, etc.