Scamwatch: Do you want to be a model?

Jess Bown
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.