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The real Hustle – The Bogus Agency Scam

Posted by Awareness

The Definition: The Bogus Agency Scam is one of the more elaborate hustles, entailing the renting of space to set up a phony talent agency. The aim of the scam is to play upon the victims’ desire to make it big in show business – and their willingness to back up this desire with hard-earned cash. The set-up is complicated, but for the scammers, the payoff is big time indeed.

The Mark: Any talented – or, for that matter, not so talented – young lady or gent who believes that he’s destined for the bright lights and big city. This lust for celebrity blinds them to the reality of the situation – the cons are not interested in your voice, they are interested in your money!

The Scam: Britain’s Got Talent, American Idol, The X Factor and shows of this ilk have all conspired to make The Bogus Agency Scam more popular than ever before. Folks see talented amateurs being rewarded with great celebrity and national attention, season after season; young people who were improbably given the opportunity to quit their day job – and to pursue a life of glamour and excitement in the heady world of show business.

 

Many ordinary people believe that they, too, have that spark that will propel them to a life of fame and fortune. And unfortunately for them, they are just far too willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Three scammers can pull off this hustle very nicely; they will play the roles of The Agent, The Satisfied Customer and The Producer.

The first thing to be done is to set up a phony office in leased space. Decorated with pictures of celebrities, and equipped with microphones, amplifiers and speakers, the counterfeit agency lures would-be singers and songwriters to an “audition” which, in reality, turns out to be more like the spider inviting into his parlor the unsuspecting fly.

Hustler #1, the fake “Agent,” conducts interviews with the wide-eyed, young, wannabe stars. He weaves a tale designed to capture their imagination, and appeal to their burning desire for fame. So credible is his pitch that he is conducting a search for fresh, undiscovered talent, he could probably seal the deal right then and there – but no, there is more convincing to do if he wants the big payday he expects. He has already dropped a few hints about “investing in yourself” designed to craftily set the mark up for what is to come.

The stage is now set for Convincer #1: the scammer who portrays the “Satisfied Customer.” She breezes in with a big greeting for the agent, while the unsuspecting mark looks on in awe. Here is a real life example of a client who has made good! With introductions out of the way, the Satisfied Customer gushes to the mark about the agency, and how she was taken by the hand down the road to recording contracts, and eventual fame and fortune. Even if the marks had harbored any previous suspicions, here was evidence they could see with their own eyes, talk to and question.

Next comes the big gun: Convincer #2. This is the young, hotshot record producer with a sharp eye for talent, who will invite our mark to perform right there in the office. It is so very sad that any of the prey, regardless of their abilities, will be praised as being blessed with real talent and an incredible voice – no matter how pathetic the “audition” really is. Stardom awaits – and the producer will leave it to the singer and the agent to work out the details.

At the conclusion, the mark is left to the devices of the phony agent, who has nothing left to do but mop up the remains. Studio time, of course, costs money; easily £1,500. But so impressed is the agent that he will contribute £1,000 of the necessary funds. Of course, the would-be star, if he believes in himself at all, will be more than willing to commit to the other £500. After all, he is investing in his own future, right?

It may only take a day or so for the hustlers to bilk a series of marks out of 1000, 2000 or even 3000 pounds. When day is done, the office is dismantled, the equipment removed and, sadly, the victims are left to discover the scam, and to be crushed by their own gullibility.

The Lesson Learned: If your talent is real, no agent or producer will ever ask you to spend your own money. Try, as hard as it may be, to listen to your head and not your heart – and remember, the more you want something, the less rational will be the things you do to get it. We are reminded of a poem written in the early 19th century, which closes:

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

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