The number of teenage girls being exploited by fake model scouts has increased drastically in the last few years because of social media, according to leading model agencies. Scammers are using Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat to extract explicit photos from vulnerable young people, which are later used against them to extort money.
Leading model agencies, including Storm Model Management and BMA Models, have warned young people and their parents or guardians to be "vigilant and defensive" in such instances, reported the Guardian. Typically, fraudsters will contact girls by claiming to be recruiting for a modelling agency and ask them for topless photos or to remove their clothes during a Skype interview.
Storm Model Management said it now receives messages every day about scam agents, up from one a week two years ago. “The rise of social media has impacted greatly on why modelling agency scams are increasing,” Sarah Doukas, who founded the agency and scouted Kate Moss, told the Guardian.
“Firstly, a lot of young people’s Instagram accounts are not private, and consequently they are easy to approach. Secondly, fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated because of social media generally," she added. “We are getting more scammers posing as ‘friends’ of the model agency and offering an introduction to us, and this is not legitimate.
"There was one example recently, which went on for several months, where a vulnerable girl was invited to a shoot and she ended up taking her clothes off. She had been approached by a fraudster claiming to know me.”
BMA Models director Alex Haddad said they now receive around 10 calls and 20 emails about fake model scouts each week – nearly double as many as last year. “[Scammers] will say they are scouting for models and ask for pictures, sometimes they ask for naked shots ... We are getting phone calls from concerned parents saying, ‘Is this a scam? What is happening?’ Some of them do Skype calls which are so-called interviews, and they ask things like, ‘Would you shave your head or go topless?’ It’s always young girls who get targeted.”
There were 327 cases of scam model recruiters reported in the UK last year, many of which involved social media, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. Jessica Barker, co-founder of the cyber security consultancy Redacted Firm, said scammers will tell young girls they "look great and have the right look for film or whatever modelling campaign they are supposedly doing".
"Then they ask, ‘Can we see some more pictures?’ They flatter the girls a lot and give them hope in terms of what they are looking for. They encourage the girls to then share explicit pictures, and when they do they try to extort them of money," Barker told the Guardian.
She advises people in this situation to never send explicit images. "A reputable model agency... would never ask for someone to send naked images of themselves. If you have sent the images and are worried about being scammed, or you have received threats, tell a trusted adult.”