Early last year I published an article titled “Parents Beware – Child modelling scams”. In this article I gave a detailed account of how unscrupulous “modelling agencies” dupe parents into paying thousands of pounds for portfolios by playing on their adoration for their children and by promising modelling work, fame and fortune. Here is the link…
The article was viewed over 10’000 times and led to me being contacted by dozens of parents who had suffered the same fate as we did, all looking for advice about how they could try and have the money they believed they were scammed out of returned. I am very proud to have helped a great number of people get their money back, but unfortunately, these practices are still going on, and with what seems like an endless supply of loving mummies and daddies, eager for their babies be photographed and signed to an agency.
I was contacted last week by yet another mum, devastated that she had been taken in by another of these agencies having been bullied into paying £1000 for a shoddy, poor quality portfolio, but this one has stuck with me for different reasons. The agency that I had dealings with, and that most of the people that contacted me had too, was quite a young business and with a very naive Director, a good photographer who had quite obviously become overcome by greed and was happy to send fake solicitors letters, become very aggressive and threatening and eventually pay off anyone that promised not to badmouth her on Facebook, but this new case stuck with me as the agency seems to be much more experienced in dealing with angry parents, openly and blatantly offering bribes via legitimate solicitors, faking reviews, threatening legal action and demanding that people sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the course.
We will call the lady that contacted me, Connie. Connie wrote to me in great detail about her experience and the main reason I have agreed to publish this was that she has impressed me greatly by actually turning down an offer of a refund because she wants to make sure she doesn’t have to sign an NDA and can warn others about the scam. Here is her story;
Good evening Sean and thank you for considering looking into this story. I will try and keep this email concise, but can expand on any item, and send attachments if necessary. I hope you will feel it is suitable to publish, as I really want to help as many people as I can. I just wish I had received warning about this agency before we attended. This is very hard for me to write as I still feel extremely stupid for falling for it but I hope we can stop others from losing money.
This agency acts very similarly to the agency you profiled in your previous article. They attract parents of young children via adds on Facebook, suggesting you send a picture to see if your child may be suitable as a model, which I did for my son. The following day I received a phone call inviting me to photo session to see if he would be successful as a model. They asked for a £50 deposit, which was refundable as long as I attended. I was rather sceptical, but read the reviews on Trustpilot, which all seemed encouraging.
They sent me a formal invitation and stated that they are not an agency. They also stated that images cost £50 each, which I thought was odd, but nothing else about price etc and no details of what they actually do offer. I decided to go along for the experience.
We attended their studio in Manchester on the 20th Feb. My son spent about 30 mins having his pictures taken, which he seemed to enjoy. However, my honest feeling was that although he had fun, he wasn’t really suitable as a model and expected to get my £50 back, leave and maybe try again once he was a little older.
Following the shoot, we were invited into the office and were shocked to hear how “amazed and stunned” they were with his modelling skills. The salesgirl, Emilia was extremely persuasive! She advised me how “super impressed” they were with him, how he would be a “brilliant model”- really playing on my vanity.
They started off offering a portfolio package which would cost £2500 They claimed they would provide an epholio and offer an inclusive support service, providing details of agents and offering the support to ensure that he would receive modelling work within a year. She very much simplified the process stating that agencies would not charge for you to join them, that we wouldn’t have to travel further than Manchester, that we wouldn’t need to miss any school etc. It all sounded great but seeing that we were put off by the price, she eventually offered me the same package for £1000. At this point we asked if we could go away and think about it, but we’re informed quite sternly that this was a “one-time offer” In a moment of weakness I agreed and paid on my credit card.
When I got home, I found that they had enclosed a disc of all the images taken. 2 weeks later, after I had called to chase it up, I received my epholio. I was very disappointed to say the least. The images hadn’t been touched up or edited at all. Many were over exposed and blurred by movement, and out of the dozens of photos, I struggled to find many at all that I would want to put in frames. They were exactly as they had been taken and were pretty poor quality for a professional photographer. Alarm bells started immediately ringing and so I started looking into the agencies. I joined a group on Facebook called “Parents of Child models UK”. I was devastated to find that this was an agency that was discussed in the group and that everyone understood were a scam agency. A link to the group is here;
found that a portfolio isn’t necessary to apply to agencies, as they prefer
simple shots and many of the pictures I had, weren’t suitable to apply to
agencies, as he was wearing a hat or not looking directly at the camera. I
started to work through a disc of agencies they had enclosed for me. I
was disappointed to find that many required you to be in London, many charged
high fees, some had their websites removed and reading reviews of some highlighted
they weren’t legitimate agencies. I had well and truly been scammed
I really was quite upset and decided to leave a subjective review on Trustpilot. I wasn’t intending to try to get a refund but wanted to make sure that there was at least one honest review for others to see as there had been nothing but positive ones when I had looked. I contacted other agencies to ask their advice. They confirmed that I had been conned and that they could have done the same portfolio for around £120.00
This is where things started to turn a little sinister. Following my TrustPilot review, I quickly received a very aggressive phone call from one of the staff of the agency. She quickly offered me £250 to remove my negative review and to not leave any more which I felt was quite bullying. This was followed by a very aggressive email. I opted not to accept the bribe, as it felt immoral. I contacted Citizens Advice, who advised me upon Consumer Protection Law and Section 75. They advised me to send a letter by recorded delivery stating that legally I should have 30 days to unwind the deal and to offer what I felt anything I had received was worth, which I did.
I saw that my Trustpilot review was under review as UK models had complained it was inaccurate. I contacted Trustpilot to complain and altered some of the wording in my review, at their request, to ensure it complied with Trustpilot guidelines
A couple of weeks later I received a letter from their solicitor. It offered me £500 to remove all reviews and refrain from any more action otherwise they would start legal action against me to recoup any lost revenue due to my review. I once again contacted citizens advice.
I also forwarded the letter to Trustpilot and Fefo to advise them of the breach to their regulations, I was advised they would investigate, but there has, so far been no changes to the reviews.
I responded to the solicitor explaining that I would accept a goodwill gesture but would not remove the review as this was a censorship of my freedom of speech. There have been a few emails since (much less threatening). The latest is they are offering a full refund if I remove all reviews, however the solicitor is wanting me to sign an undertaking, not an agreement, and refuses to confirm value, time frame for a refund or to make it an agreement from their part. I am reluctant to sign it as I feel I will remove reviews and receive nothing but be unable to leave anything further. From the communication received I’m unsure how reliable I feel this Manchester based solicitor will be to honour the refund.
I have since noticed on Trustpilot there were another six reviews, similar to mine, that had been removed and being reviewed as the company had reported them as inaccurate. As well as breaking Consumer Protection Law, offering nothing more than average pictures, breaking the guidelines of the review sites, I believe I have encountered the most awful after sales services, simply for leaving an honest subjective review.
This studio obviously has an experienced team of people that includes solicitors, that work very hard to maintain a clean and tidy online image, so as to keep the people, and the cash rolling in. They are very prepared to threaten and bully, lie about honest reviews and eventually pay out their (not very) hard earned cash to make you go away!! If you are considering getting your child into modelling, make sure you do your homework. Help is out there in the form of Facebook groups and you can always email Sean at email@example.com if you need any advice.