How beauty pageants lure entrants into spending thousands of dollars: Internet Scambusters #841
What's the difference between a beauty pageant and a scam?
Sometimes, it's a few thousand dollars -- the amount young Americans or their parents pay in hopes of achieving modeling stardom.
In this week's issue, we explain how the scams work and the 7 key things you should do to sidestep them.
Let's get started...
When Beauty Pageants Become Money-Making Scams
Every year more than a quarter-million young Americans line up to compete in beauty pageants.
They, or in the case of children and babies, their parents, collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars on entry fees, training, costumes and other expenses.
Whether or not you agree with or participate in these events, it's a fact that many of them turn out to be money-making scams.
Clever promoters find new ways of extracting money from ambitious young women or proud and, sometimes, desperate parents.
They may make unrealistic promises about scholarships and potential stardom to entrants, offer costly photographic contracts and modeling assignments, or create competitions within competitions -- such as best dress or best personality -- to draw in more entry fees.
Even perfectly legitimate pageants can leave entrants questioning the value of participating and paying a fortune for low-value prizes.
In some reported cases, organizers demand initial entry fees of several hundred dollars. They then may insist that participants pay for advertisements in the event program or sponsorship publication.
They will also try to persuade participants and parents that their chances of winning will be enhanced if they undergo training in personal presentation, costing up to $1,000 a day.
And all of this is before the expensive costumes, shoes, cosmetics and headwear that entrants are expected to buy.
According to Pageantry Magazine, some parents are even forced to take out loans to meet the rising costs of these events.
The point, of course, is that beauty pageants are, almost without exception, for-profit events. The organizers don't hide that they want to make money.
That can make it difficult to distinguish between genuine events and those that are out-and-out scams, sometimes until it is too late.
These scams may include over-priced and hidden fees, publicized events that never take place, failure by the organizers to fulfill promises to promote a pageant, failure to produce promised programs, and dubious contracts that call for further payments.
In a worst-case scenario, participants may even be drawn into involvement with the adult film industry and other dubious or even illegal activities.
7 Key Steps
So, if you plan to enter yourself or your child into a beauty pageant, what can you do to reduce the risk of getting snared in a scam?
Here are seven key actions you should take:
1. Check out the reputation and track record of the organizers. How long have they been in business? How many events have they organized? Start at www.pageant.com and perform a Google search on the organizer's name.
A reputable pageant should also have a website that includes contact details. Check those out too. Look out for poor grammar and misspellings, sometimes the sign of a scam operation.
2. Make sure you understand the cost structure clearly before entering, including any so-called sponsorship fees. Check the small print of entry forms and rules and regulations for hidden costs.
3. Are you able to contact previous winners? If so, ask them how things turned out after their success. Were promises fulfilled? Will the organizers provide references?
4. Check with the advertised location that the event has been booked. This doesn't guarantee it'll take place but increases the likelihood it will. Ask the venue if they also have checked out the organizers.
5. Are there any rules about the circumstances under which an event might be cancelled (low entries for example)? If it's cancelled, will you get a refund?
6. Who are the judges and what are their experience and qualifications? If there are no judges, just a winner selected by the organizers, beware!
Even if there are judges, does their reputation suggest they will behave honorably and impartially?
A couple of years ago, a well-known actress who had been invited to judge a pageant told how she and the other judges were told by the organizers who they should select as winner.
She refused to do this, and the organizers subsequently refused to pay her fee or travel expenses.
7. What does the winner get and how realistic are the claimed, future rewards? Are the prizes too good to be true? Will you have to pay more to collect on them -- such as a modeling contract?
Now you've done all you can to feel comfortable with the reputation of the beauty pageants. On with the show!
Alert of the Week
Thefts of Social Security numbers (SSNs) rocketed during the past year from 3,200 reported incidents in 2017 to 35,000 in 2018, costing victims $10 million -- and that's likely only the tip of an iceberg of attempted ID theft.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is so worried about the increase, it's issued a new warning together with a recording of what a scam call sounds like.
And remember, never tell anyone your number unless you are 110% sure they need it AND they're trustworthy.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!