How To Avoid Talent Agency Scams

If you’re just breaking into the entertainment business, finding representation can be a thorny and difficult issue. There are plenty of great talent agents out there, but unfortunately, there are also many unscrupulous ones ready to take advantage of those who are new to the entertainment business and may not know all they need to about how talent agencies typically work.

Legitimate talent agencies typically work on a percentage basis when it comes to fees, and being aware of this simple fact can often save young talent from being victimized by less than honest people posing as agents. Honest agents very rarely demand large sums of money upfront, and while some may request small amounts in exchange for photo shoots, portfolio compilation or other tasks, they’ll be able to provide you with an itemized list of their costs if asked (and for the record, you should ask). In contrast, many scams demand money right away and say that it’s for training, advisement, or other similarly vague purposes which may or may not ever materialize but which are nearly always guaranteed to advance your career and ensure your meteoric success. Buyer beware: never is it more true than in show business that there are absolutely no guarantees in life.

While a legitimate, established talent agency will never pressure you or try to manipulate you into signing up with their representation service immediately, scam artists most certainly will. We’re always most vulnerable when we haven’t had time to sit and consider something before acting, and scam artists know that. Their goal is always to make a big first impression, promise you all kinds of success, and then get you to sign up and give them money before you have a chance to critically examine the situation. If you feel pressured or if your new agent seems to be rushing you into making a decision, chances are, you’ll be better off with another agent.

One fast and easy way to tell if your agent is an above board one is to ask if he or she is bonded by your state’s surety bond program. Most states require talent agencies to be bonded (though the California surety bond program, as you can imagine, boasts the majority of talent agency bonds) and the bonds protect consumers against fraud, misrepresentation, and unethical behavior on the part of the agent. If a bonded agent acts in an unlawful manner, the wronged party can file a complaint with the state’s licensing board and expect restitution or compensation for the damages. Moreover, the talent agency’s willingness to become bonded shows a commitment to work according to state, local, and federal laws and an eagerness to show their clients that they will represent them ethically and fairly.

Making sure that your talent agency of choice has a current surety bond will protect you and give you the added reassurance of knowing that your representation has your best interests at heart. Having confidence with your talent agent also means that you have the energy to focus on your career which is the most critical component of success, particularly in the entertainment industry.

Guest post by Kevin Kaiser of, the nationwide leader in surety bonds, committed to informing consumers about fraud and how to avoid becoming a victim.