Scamwatch: Do you want to be a model?

Scamwatch: do you want to be a model?

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we issue a warning about criminals who pose as model scouts to persuade young people to share explicit photos - and then use those photos to blackmail them.

How does it work?

Unsavoury individuals have used flattery to prey on young girls for years, but now, social media has made it a lot easier to do.

That's why model agencies such as Storm Model Management are warning teenage girls and their parents to be "vigilant and defensive" if they are contacted by so-called model scouts on social media sites and apps such as Instagram and Facebook.

In many cases, such approaches are made by fraudsters looking to persuade the youngsters to share nude photos with them.

And as if that's not bad enough. The criminals behind these scams often use the images sent to extort money from their victims by threatening to share them online.

How can I avoid being caught out?

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.

But the number of girls targeted may be much higher. Storm Model Management now receives messages every day about scam agents, up from one a week just two years ago.

Tactics used by the scammers include posing as "friends" of a model agency and offering an introduction to it, and inviting potential victims to participate in Skype or video messaging chats in which they are asked if they would show their breasts.

Ways to avoid being taken in include checking up on any approaches from so-called scouts by calling the agency they claim to represent (using the number on the agency's website), and ignoring all requests for explicit images.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

Youngsters caught out by scams of this kind should immediately cut off all contact with the "scouts". Then tell a trusted adult and let them take it from there.

If you become aware of criminals targeting young girls in this way, report them to the police via Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

It is a good idea to keep copies of the messages to assist with any investigations.

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Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.
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