Fraud Alert : (Featured on - Amazon/Flipcart/Hopscotch/IKFW(India Kids Fashion Week)/Myntra) Casting for ChildrenWritten by Artriva Studios
As a Rental space provider there are few things that we can enforce such as Issuing GST Invoices (for both record keeping & having money trail as to who made the booking & was paid by whom etc), Clients are only comfortable with providing generic information such as E-Commerce shoot, Jewellery, Fashion/Portfolio etc before making a booking. This creates a scenario where we are unable to fully verify a client up until we have given a confirmed booking. When in doubt we do ask ask for an e-mail listing the scope of work / promises to end client etc.
Over the last year(s), we have come across several parents having fallen for a paid activity where their kids are featured on the sites of some of the "brand names" mentioned in the title. Our (and many other studios of photographers in Bangalore) are mentioned as the venue for these activities.
Intention of this article is to avoid Brand Names / Trademarks from being misused -
Now coming to the topic of "Sham Portfolio Shoots for Kids", wherein many dubious entities have been collecting various sums of monies from gullible parents in the name of "Featuring their children on popular E-Commerce Sites (& other opportunities)".
As parents (I am a parent myself) we want our children to succeed in life (by having a profession, source of income, being successful (popular/ known name in the society) etc), this is the very basic instinct / nature which is being exploited.
The first we were unknowingly made a part of this was by persons claiming to be representing a firm organising a kids pageant made an advance (Name of company / part visible in bank statement)
- We asked for Company details / address / GSTIN for giving a formal estimate : we got a photo of a stone etching / name board of the firm which also mentions GSTIN
- Not exactly a red flag - but most firms tend to send us their GST certificate itself / type it out
- Sent quote by mail (to user on registered domain) and later on whatsapp - Response only on whatsapp
- Something was confusing regarding the vibe of this engagement
- Follow up for advance : whatsapp replies of "photos of outlook mail" of a mail sent internally with a pdf (my quote as an attachment)
- This being a first experience attributed to a tech/language challenged person
- regards to vibe correct minimal English on mail and not understanding "send email conformation" --- Thinking now is a RED flag
- Advance received : bank statement contains truncated name of the company
- pagent/event name was different matched domain of email ID's ; company name matched the name in footer on domain and truncated name in statement matches
- brushed off doubts to overthinking and attributed it to a lousy point of contact
- We moved to the next stage to being prepared (asking collecting info)
- Someone coming from their end (a coordinator)
- Scheduling (timeslots allotted)
- Mention of a "Courier" that has to arrive around 7pm (this contains the "Garments) - stayed on the balcony (facing the road - even had dinner there) no one came and was communicated
- Communication received regarding change in number of costumes provided and those provided by the organiser (in courier package from designer)
- Their representative (coordinator) is a intern from a local college
- The makeup team are people from a locally located "makeup training academy/institute"
- we get a moodboard - that was basically a dump of images from a previous shoot (not even categorised by participant - that was they actually deliver)
- Call / surprise - shown when informed that there is no courier that has reached
- further follow-up - info of courier stuck in Tumkur (but no address) ---- No courier existed as as eventually no courier reached the studio/our location (after the weekend/shoot day)
- As we had received an initial payment our obligation is to deliver to the people who hired us (for studio rental and later shoot by us)
- As we were in the clear that parents/kids were being cheated here - we did offer them the option to wait a month and get back to us for images if there was no delivery of images from their end
- we uploaded half the data and for the other half set a password as "Pending - INV_the_number" and each time they asked for the password (after a delay) replied the "actual password" which they understood as "please clear payment"
- Upon final payment - told that was a actual password and had to actually record a video and send it to make them understand that they had the password the whole time
Much Much later
- Got call from another Photographer - and got to know of this trick being pulled across various studios Not just in Bangalore, but across most major/metro cities
- Got calls from a different brand/company for similar shoot - We insisted on email of actual Scope OF Work --- Communications would cease after that.
- Shadow banned - taking bookings from Mumbai for Kids shoot
- Other state bookings have come up - who only book studio - difficult to trace origin - but its mostly a travelling group of about 3 to 4 people (by road/train) with a "kit of clothes and small props"
- Unaware of their promises / deliverables
- Not got calls from parents of cheating regarding them
A Quick Result v/s Common Sense
After the initial a fair share of parents who have been cheated by various entities who have collected various sums of monies from parents promising that their child will be "Featured" on various popular e-commerce websites. Unfortunately most of these calls after some payment for a so called registration has been done.
- Parents (especially mothers) need to first slow down and discuss with the spouse / family / friends regarding what is on offer.
- Not every kid becomes a sports star / actor / model / an exam topper --- THERE IS NO GUARANTEE / SHORTCUT (apart from sustained hard work)
- Even if a kid has looks, can pose better than models --- It should still match a Brand's Identity / Marketing Narrative --- EVEN ESTABLISED MODELS GO THROUGH A SELECTION PROCESS FOR WORK
- If someone giving you a "Guarantee" of selection / feature - IT IS A SCAM
- Even in cases where you are getting some deliverables the whole process is a "OVER-PAID (by model/you) CASTING CAMPAIGN"
- Most of these scamsters only make promises over phone/personal messages ; use tact to avoid giving a written guarantee (written in terms of email, written messages)
- If images of your child is going to be used commercially -- YOU GET PAID (no logic of making an investment of guaranteed returns)
- If you are getting images of your child (for memories / portfolio) - YOU PAY (you may use these as a resume to find modelling jobs through casting agencies)
Please Please ensure the following
- Modelling is serious work (it is not all FUN)
- Does your child have interest in it - Do they enjoy - Are you prepared for a lifestyle change [as a parent you will end up accompanying them, school schedules may get disturbed - you also will need to double up as a teacher]
- There are Casting Agencies - do a background check , keep an eye on them (stalk their social media pages over a significant period of time - to see regular updates of work)
- Sign up with an agency (they also provide additional services like shooting a portfolio and listing with them for a period of time) - Ask/Understand about their commissions
- Be Realistic / Critical about your child's abilities [DO NOT CRITISISE THEM, BUT BE REALISTIC ABOUT ABILITIES & WHAT QUALIFIES A CHILD MODEL]
You can have a good portfolio/polaroid(s) shot by any photographer and later on share the portfolio with agencies, If not anything you would have memories of your kid (A Short video of your kid posing is a plus to share with agencies)
Since most communication happens over whatsapp and even our brand names are misused along with big brand names we are unable to action as these communications are not made publicly.
Recovering LOST MONEY
- Avoid paying through GPay/PhonePE/UPI/NEFT (Narration - some small text that gets embedded into statements --- not a real way to get back money)
- To get a payment link - some basic identity check is necessary (so we get a person/company)
- Use Credit Cards - They have set up payment pages , Raise complaint with your Credit card company for not delivering what was promised
- Ask in writing (NO MENTION OF CALLS) - avoid getting mails from GMAIL/YAHOO/HOTMAIL ID's ..... A domain in the name of the business is better (you can later on ask for link to pay through card)
- Several complaints to Payment gateways - Credit card companies - since its bank money they are pro-active ..... Debit-Card money is your money less of an incentive for your bank to recover it
- So if these websites loose their payment page and insist on Gpay/PayTM/PhonePe/Cash/UPI etc --- stay away
Do leave comments if you were a victim etc / based on the response it might be easier to collaborate the fight against these cheats.
If there are significantly high number of people responding - can create a discussion forum and update this post with a link to help coordinate efforts to bring these guys down.