When it comes to scams, it's hard to avoid them if you are a newbie, they flock everywhere, just google the word modeling, many of those paid ads are scams. There are a few things to look for during a Google search and on an agency website and when you meet the agency, though.
I love Google! Use it!
-Google the agency name + the word scam and see what comes up.
Gazing at the agency website.
-Does the agency's website really push and push you to visit their testimonials page? Most of the time I consider testimonials a scam-alert. A real agency doesn't need testimonials to prove they are professional and legit. Also does the agency push their great modeling classes that cost $1000 or more, yeah, I'd skip that agency.
Meeting the agency and checking out the website.
-Does the agency have a sign-up fee or website fee? Really debate this before you carry on. Go with your gut but remember nothing is guaranteed, even if you pay. Think about it before forking out the cash. While the agency's clients may look at the models on the website and you pay to be on that website, just remember you might not book a job from it, it's not a promise, so go with your gut about it. Most of the time, I say no thanks. Mainly because the relationship with the agency is most likely non-exclusive in print modeling and you're already paying for enough. Stand tall and tell the agency, I'm paying for comp cards, a portfolio, updating photos, making myself available, providing jpegs for you to market me, upkeep -nail salon, hair cuts, beauty supplies, etc, and once I book a couple jobs with you then I'll consider paying to be on your site. I find it crazy to charge someone hundreds or a monthly fee to simply upload a photo on a website. I understand that's someone's job and they should be compensated for their time, but if they move over I'll update my photo myself and upload it in like 5 seconds.
Working with the agency.
-I believe a human being agent still matters, can't leave it up to just an agency website to book you work. I like agents that have a personal relationship with their clients, the website isn't what 100% they rely on, it's a tool to share with clients they know photos, but for 99.9% of agencies I've worked with I haven't had to pay to be on their website. I give them marketable, clean and pretty jpeg photos or a jpeg scan of my comp card after I have met them or submitted the card by postal mail and then while working with the agency send them updated photos often...like every few months.
Submitting to the agency.
For submitting to the agency tips and skipping scams: Usually a professional agency will explain on their website how to submit photos, what they accept photo-wise and the best way to contact them. Follow what the website suggests to send/do. Typically submitting through a website could be a waste of time, think about it, thousands of girls do that. Send a professional comp card or images in the postal mail if possible, more professional. Information like photo-packages, or "we provide great photography services" could lead to the agency wanting a lot of money from you for a photo-session and in this situation often the models do not have rights to the photos so you are paying for the agency to own photos of you. Instead I think it is best to be marketing savvy, be up for managing your own photography needs, ask if you could use your own photos and explain you're willing to update and change your photos if needed to help the agency better market you. Show that you are willing to try. (In my experience) Usually print modeling agencies will work with the comp card you give them if it is marketable. Print agencies are the type of agencies that work with models of all types but you do have to be willing to put in the work when it comes to getting the marketing materials you need for the agency to best market you. You, fork out money for photographers you find, you fork out money for comp cards you make. It is a different world than fashion to work as a print model who is hustling to work with agencies and book work and who is shorter than most. It's a go-getter, do-it-yourself world that you manage. Agencies are a source to get work, but you're the force to make it happen by being prepared with professional and marketable photos in your portfolio, compcards and an upbeat personality. I've worked non-exclusive with many print modeling agencies over the years and I did not pay for a photo-package to work with them. I showed them the photos I had and the comp card I made. In the early years, sometimes the agency liked me, but not my photos so I had to go and get new ones made, update, re-shoot...but that is the process of building a portfolio and professional photos and being professional. (I also talk about this in my memoir Almost 5'4".) Don't submit to an agency until you're ready, until you're photos are ready, until you know you have a nice presentation, portfolio, comp cards, and your comfortable with yourself and ready to go on castings and can handle the long hours of shoots. A shorter girl working with a non-fashion agency will not be taught how to model. Study ads, editorials, and commercials on TV. Be sure you understand what print modeling is and the photos you need before you pursue modeling.
Meeting the agent at the agency:
-If you meet or visit an agent at the agency, notice, is the agent talking more about how great the agency is than getting to the point and asking to see your photos and portfolio and how you fit in with the agency and the work they book? Does the agent have a nice and professional persona or a pushy one, like a sales lady? That's a bad sign. Does the agent explain the exclusive or non-exclusive contract details, or do they rush you to sign it or give you time to look it over. Don't feel flattered if the agent seems to be really wanting you to work with them and sign up right away, it could be a scam. Don't rush it. You should always look over contracts -have someone who understands the language or a parent or friend look it over first before you sign. (Ask to get back to them about it, don't rush into it.) Does the agency explain how castings and bookings and how payment works?
Scams are in the air we breath.
Also don't be in so much of a rush for your success or the feeling of it that it makes you desperate or naive to scams. You want to skip mistakes. You'll need a savvy, smart, perceptive mindset. Knowing what's a scam and what's not is not always common sense because there are so many scams these days. Every corner is another scam, even on the social media sites you may use be careful about the people who you 'friend', who can see all your information, and be careful about putting all your info out there and be careful about the photos you flaunt. (I'd think twice before posting your home address, phone number and personal info about yourself on your Facebook, etc.) Be aware of the scumbags out there too, they are everywhere. Ex: If some so-called photographer contacts you on Youtube and says he works with a high fashion brand or lingerie company, YOU better GOOGLE the name of the person, ask questions about the name of photographer, website, the lingerie brand, before you meet them or submit a photo or anything! Just the other day I received a message on Youtube from a person claiming to be a photographer and working with a well known lingerie brand. I have an eye for scams and knew it was a scam right away because professionals typically do not contact models through Youtube or on social media sites about modeling gigs, simply they have no time to message people on Youtube about jobs and they do things the professional way with a casting, production company, and the art director or marketing director of that company deciding on a model. This Youtube ID wanted more lingerie videos of me. YEAH RIGHT DUDE. Always Google the person's name, do your homework about everything, and in this situation of course nothing related to photography or lingerie came up. DELETE!
There are good agencies and agents out there, and keep striving you will find the right ones.
Be smart, be careful, be the best of you.