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  • FIRST POST
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 30th Aug 17, 8:54 PM
    • 11Posts
    • 14Thanks
    jackielim
    Modelling agency warning (First Step Modelling / Distinctive Model Advice)
    • #1
    • 30th Aug 17, 8:54 PM
    Modelling agency warning (First Step Modelling / Distinctive Model Advice) 30th Aug 17 at 8:54 PM
    Hey all,

    Just a warning regarding modelling agency First Step Modelling.

    In my case, they dangled a "modelling job" and say that professional photos need to be taken to apply for the job. The photoshoot cost from £290, and afterwards, they said that the photos cannot be used unless retouched and it cost £350 (£35 per photo, and they said they must have 10 photos). I felt very pressurised to make these purchases as they said I need to decide immediately or the modelling job will be gone. They also said I was 100% guaranteed for the job, which never happened.

    Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way and have lost the money. So I am here to warn anyone who is new on the modelling scene.

    I did further research on First Step Modelling and found out that:
    (a) Southwest Studios (where FSM said would be a professional studio for doing a retouching) and Hyde Park Studios (where FSM said would be the professional photoshoot studio) seemed like it was connected to the FSM operation because the owner of both domains is the same person who owned the First Step Modelling domain.

    (b) FSM is not registered with Companies House. The organisation registered at the same address (text removed by MSE Forum Team) is VenusLondon, and they used to be registered at (text removed by MSE Forum Team). I then learned that there were many so called modelling agencies/support organisations, e.g. Dio Models, Nexus Models, Fashion Mode London, and now Distinctive Modelling Advice, which had their address at (text removed by MSE Forum Team).

    (c) In addition, I have google imaged on their images on their web sites, and found out that they have taken those images from other web sites or stock photos.

    Personally, I feel that "agencies" or "modelling advice" organisations that are resident at the above addresses should be approached with caution. You should also keep checking Venus London's companies house file to see if they have moved address again, and then check whether an agency that has gotten in touch with you is resident at that address.

    No reputable agency will charge you money in order to get a job. So please be aware, and never part with your money. Google BBC newsbeat article on modelling scams.

    I have learned a hard lesson, and just want to warn those new on the modelling scene to be aware. In summary:
    1. If they are trying to get you to buy photos, say no. If a person is truly a good person, they would not be pressurising you as well to part with your money.
    2. Check whether images on their web sites are genuine via Google Image
    3. Check whether they are registered on Companies House, and whether there are other "modelling agencies" in the past that have had the same residency
    4. Check carefully their testimonials and reviews, as many positive reviews may not necessarily be genuine
    5. Be wary of Gumtree posters that advertise/promise modelling jobs (I learned about their open casting on Gumtree)

    NOTE - update 4th Sept - FSM has contacted me. Please see my post below.
    NOTE - update 12 Oct - FSM tried to pull down my review from TrustPilot again - this time claiming I am not a genuine customer.
    NOTE - updates 12 Oct:
    (a) thank you Clive Hurst for reporting FSM's misleading Gumtree ad to Advertising Standards Agency
    (b) thank you Mirror for investigating and reporting First Step Modelling and Distinctive Models Advice. The title of the Mirror article is "Gushing compliments, promises of riches, and then the hard sell – what happens at a “no fees” model photo shoot" and it was written by Andrew Penn.
    (c) I have submitted my own complaint to ASA on FSM, and will update when I hear from ASA.
    NOTE - update 16 Oct: communications with FSM for evidence regarding authenticity of job advertisement, otherwise to refund the money for photoshoot and retouched services - FSM agreed to refund the money and has done so.

    All the best.
    Last edited by MSE ForumTeam5; Today at 11:47 AM. Reason: Personal details
Page 3
    • Cornucopia
    • By Cornucopia 1st Oct 17, 7:30 PM
    • 9,262 Posts
    • 8,763 Thanks
    Cornucopia
    They will not be registered at Companies House if they are not a registered company.

    They could be a partnership or a sole trader, neither of these would be registered at Companies House.
    Originally posted by sheramber
    All UK traders MUST identify themselves accurately on various articles of business documentation and advertising to customers - that includes websites.

    Typically, businesses identify themselves on their websites either at the foot of the home page, or within an "About" or "Contact" page, but this company does not do that.

    Like I said, they could refute the allegation that they are breaking the law on the transparency of their identity by showing us where the required info is. Coincidentally, that's what the OP needs to begin a money claim case.

    With hindsight and some background knowledge, I can spot a number of warning signs about their website. Again, they could ask MSE for a right of reply to these issues, and do not need to know who I am to address them:-

    1. The only identifying info I can find is this, from the Ts & Cs: "First Step Modelling is a website operated by South-West Studios. Registered in England and Wales. Our registered office is 26 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DL". The only "South-West Studios" on Companies House was dissolved in 2012, and the phrase "Registered in England & Wales" ought to be accompanied by a company or charity number.

    2. The map on the Contact Page has no location shown for either First Step Modelling or South-West Studios. Strange, no? There is a clue that 28 Old Brompton Road is shown as "Mailboxes Etc.". 26 OBR relates to offices above a Health Food shop.

    3. The application form has a tick box confirmation that "I understand First Step Modelling is not an agency". Okay, so what is it? I haven't been able to find a definitive answer to that on the site, which again, is strange.

    4. Within the section "Who we are", the first sub-section is titled "THE ROLE OF A MODEL AGENCY", which can only be intended to confuse people as to the role of FSM.

    5. There are various typos in the text of the website, some of them quite prominent. (For example, the second headline on the Male Modelling page says this: "Want to become a male modelling !, register with us today"[sic]).

    OTOH, their copyright notice is invalid...
    Last edited by Cornucopia; 01-10-2017 at 9:33 PM.
    I'm a Board Guide on the Phones & TV, Techie Stuff, In My Home,
    The Money Savers Arms and Food Shopping boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge threads there. Any views (especially those on the UK TV Licence) are mine and not the official line of moneysavingexpert.com.

    Board guides are not moderators. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 12th Oct 17, 11:21 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    jackielim
    How can they respond to your claims without knowing who you are?

    How can they refute your claims without being able check your records?
    Originally posted by sheramber
    They know exactly who I am and what I said in my reviews.... if they didn't, they would not have been able to directly email me regarding the reviews.
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 12th Oct 17, 11:29 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    jackielim
    FSM has tried to take down my review again on TrustPilot - they have reported my review to TrustPilot for the second time, this time with the reason that I am not a genuine customer.

    I have emailed TrustPilot my correspondence with FSM e.g. when they tried to intimidate me to delete my review, when they emailed me about the job, when they emailed me the retouched photos, etc.

    I hope all of this is sufficient evidence that I had the (unfortunate) genuine experience of their business.

    How many times can FSM try to pull down my review? If they can do this unlimited times with unlimited fabricated reasons, then I think this is truly unfair. In addition, why hasn't TrustPilot taken steps to ensure that the so-called 5 star reviews are genuine?

    And seems like I am not the only one whose negative review they are trying to take down now :/

    Also, looking at their web site, it seems that they have made many updates (some have already been described by Cornucopia e.g. the tickbox saying they are not an agency). I think this is at least partially thanks to Clive Hurst whose ASA report against them was upheld (google search first step modelling ASA). I am glad that his report contained their Gumtree ad promising paid modelling jobs, as the one which I had responded to was deleted.
    Last edited by jackielim; 12-10-2017 at 11:45 PM. Reason: Update
    • Cornucopia
    • By Cornucopia 13th Oct 17, 12:04 AM
    • 9,262 Posts
    • 8,763 Thanks
    Cornucopia
    https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/first-step-modelling-a17-389797.html
    I'm a Board Guide on the Phones & TV, Techie Stuff, In My Home,
    The Money Savers Arms and Food Shopping boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge threads there. Any views (especially those on the UK TV Licence) are mine and not the official line of moneysavingexpert.com.

    Board guides are not moderators. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 13th Oct 17, 1:23 AM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    jackielim
    On top of Clive Hurst's report, Andrew Penman from the Mirror has reported on First Step Modelling, and all the organisations linked to them e.g. Hyde Park Studios, South West Studios and Distinctive Model Advice.

    The title of the article is "Gushing compliments, promises of riches, and then the hard sell – what happens at a “no fees” model photo shoot."

    I can't post the URL, so google for the article if you are interested - here are some snippets:

    The Inspectorate responded by saying it regulates employment agencies, but fake companies that purport to be agencies do not come under its remit.

    First Step Modelling is part of an opaque web of outfits. It claims on its website to be operated by SouthWest Studios – “registered in England and Wales” – but there’s no such name to be found at Companies House.

    It shares an address near Paddington in north London with another operation, Hyde Park Studios, which claims: “Our team of experts have worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry.”

    This uses the same phone number as another website, Distinctive Models.

    Its website, which is less than a year old, states: “We have more than 13 years of experience in supporting new faces to enter the modelling industry.”


    Also, it seems that "Sami Sean" - the domain owners of the websites of the linked organisations - could very well be Sayanthan Sritharan himself, the director of VenusLondon, as the article says that he is known as Sami.

    The review of Coran Elliott on her experience of FSM (or Distinctive Models) is extremely similar to mine, it's pretty distressful reading about it.
    Last edited by jackielim; 13-10-2017 at 1:26 AM. Reason: formatting error
    • Computersaysno
    • By Computersaysno 13th Oct 17, 9:11 AM
    • 795 Posts
    • 595 Thanks
    Computersaysno

    The Inspectorate responded by saying it regulates employment agencies, but fake companies that purport to be agencies do not come under its remit.
    Originally posted by jackielim
    And there's the real issue...these scum could be stopped so much easier if the Inspectorate chose to tackle them....but they don't [it's too much effort I guess]
    Welcome to the world of 'Protect the brand at the cost of free speech'
    • Cornucopia
    • By Cornucopia 13th Oct 17, 9:59 AM
    • 9,262 Posts
    • 8,763 Thanks
    Cornucopia
    The title of the article is "Gushing compliments, promises of riches, and then the hard sell – what happens at a “no fees” model photo shoot."

    I can't post the URL, so google for the article if you are interested - here are some snippets:
    Originally posted by jackielim
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gushing-compliments-promises-riches-hard-11325815

    And there's the real issue...these scum could be stopped so much easier if the Inspectorate chose to tackle them....but they don't [it's too much effort I guess]
    Originally posted by Computersaysno
    There really needs to be a regulator for those businesses that fall between the cracks of other regulators. It's far too easy for scammers to come up with "creative" ideas for bypassing the intent of legal regulations that are there to protect consumers and ensure fair play between rival companies.

    Action Fraud seems to me to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of fraud that afflicts the UK, and it really needs to be split into two organisations: one to tackle criminal fraud, and the other to tackle corporate fraud against consumers (which is where I would place FSM, subject to confirmation of the claims made against them).

    The ASA judgment is well-intentioned, and undoubtedly fair, but they lack any powers outside of a self-regulatory ability to influence advertising material. Having said that, it should be easy to pick up the wording from the complaint and re-purpose it based on the content from their website.
    Last edited by Cornucopia; 13-10-2017 at 10:06 AM.
    I'm a Board Guide on the Phones & TV, Techie Stuff, In My Home,
    The Money Savers Arms and Food Shopping boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge threads there. Any views (especially those on the UK TV Licence) are mine and not the official line of moneysavingexpert.com.

    Board guides are not moderators. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com
    • roscoecat
    • By roscoecat 13th Oct 17, 5:36 PM
    • 6 Posts
    • 12 Thanks
    roscoecat
    Wow, glad to see this got picked up by the Mirror! Really think its a huge failure that scams like this can continue to operate freely, just because they fall in a legislative crack. These guys should be arrested.

    Other good thing: when I google "first step modelling", this thread comes up #4 on google search. Hopefully it'll deter anyone else from getting scammed too.
    • Computersaysno
    • By Computersaysno 16th Oct 17, 9:16 AM
    • 795 Posts
    • 595 Thanks
    Computersaysno
    Other good thing: when I google "first step modelling", this thread comes up #4 on google search. Hopefully it'll deter anyone else from getting scammed too.
    Originally posted by roscoecat
    It will be a short-lived victory...the scum will simply phoenix into a newly named company, and continue to scam people.
    Welcome to the world of 'Protect the brand at the cost of free speech'
    • hollydays
    • By hollydays 16th Oct 17, 12:13 PM
    • 15,343 Posts
    • 11,171 Thanks
    hollydays
    It will be a short-lived victory...the scum will simply phoenix into a newly named company, and continue to scam people.
    Originally posted by Computersaysno
    But now this thread exists their new name will get added here
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 16th Oct 17, 10:09 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    jackielim
    Hi all,

    Here is an update - after finding out about the Mirror article, I sent an email to FSM saying the following:

    "I am emailing regarding the job advert (see the Iconoclast advert I posted a while back) - you mentioned that I would need to do the photoshoot and retouched photos in order to apply for the job, which was I did.

    I would like you to please provide evidence that the job is an authentic job advertisement, and also evidence that you had applied for the job.

    If this is not the case, please refund my £290 (photoshoot) and £350 (retouched services) asap, or I will have to contact the Financial Conduct Authority."


    FSM then responded saying that the advert was from the Casting Collective web site, and that the Director had a chat with Angelina (the person who promised me the job, and also the FSM rep mentioned in the Mirror article) and will refund me. Initially they said to come to their office for the refund and to return the photos. However, I said to them that I have had a negative experience of FSM and suggested a bank transfer and an online transfer of the photos.

    They agreed and I am pleased to say that they have refunded me the £640.

    Guess which bank account it came from? Yep, VenusLondon. I guess Mr Director is "Sammy" himself.

    They wrote an email saying this:
    It was very big mistake what the previous manager made.

    You have to help us out to remove all the bad reviews. It will effect director’s personal life and the business.

    I would like to hear from you.


    Unfortunately I won't be taking off my negative reviews because this refund did not negate the experience I had. I won't be helping them delete any other negative reviews because what they are doing now does not erase the past. However, I am updating this thread with this good news to at least say that I have the money bank.

    If you have been scammed by First Step Modelling and/or Distinctive Model Advice, perhaps this is time to get back in touch with them for your refund.
    • hollydays
    • By hollydays 16th Oct 17, 11:50 PM
    • 15,343 Posts
    • 11,171 Thanks
    hollydays
    Hi all,

    Here is an update - after finding out about the Mirror article, I sent an email to FSM saying the following:

    "I am emailing regarding the job advert (see the Iconoclast advert I posted a while back) - you mentioned that I would need to do the photoshoot and retouched photos in order to apply for the job, which was I did.

    I would like you to please provide evidence that the job is an authentic job advertisement, and also evidence that you had applied for the job.

    If this is not the case, please refund my £290 (photoshoot) and £350 (retouched services) asap, or I will have to contact the Financial Conduct Authority."


    FSM then responded saying that the advert was from the Casting Collective web site, and that the Director had a chat with Angelina (the person who promised me the job, and also the FSM rep mentioned in the Mirror article) and will refund me. Initially they said to come to their office for the refund and to return the photos. However, I said to them that I have had a negative experience of FSM and suggested a bank transfer and an online transfer of the photos.

    They agreed and I am pleased to say that they have refunded me the £640.

    Guess which bank account it came from? Yep, VenusLondon. I guess Mr Director is "Sammy" himself.

    They wrote an email saying this:
    It was very big mistake what the previous manager made.

    You have to help us out to remove all the bad reviews. It will effect director’s personal life and the business.

    I would like to hear from you.


    Unfortunately I won't be taking off my negative reviews because this refund did not negate the experience I had. I won't be helping them delete any other negative reviews because what they are doing now does not erase the past. However, I am updating this thread with this good news to at least say that I have the money bank.

    If you have been scammed by First Step Modelling and/or Distinctive Model Advice, perhaps this is time to get back in touch with them for your refund.
    Originally posted by jackielim
    Well done.
    Casting collective has a Facebook page.
    Perhaps you should inform them about this “ company’s” activities.

    Where does ‘ iconoclast’ come into it; who or what are they?
    Particularly bad grammar and spelling in their reply. Not unlike jeff9ruls eg post#24
    Actually I’ve spent some time browsing distinctive models website-I can’t believe how BAD it is
    Last edited by hollydays; Yesterday at 1:39 AM.
    • hollydays
    • By hollydays 17th Oct 17, 1:46 AM
    • 15,343 Posts
    • 11,171 Thanks
    hollydays
    www.distinctivemodels.co.uk
    omg the photos.....woman there in a Basque looks about 80..

    Looks like it’s been written by a confused google translate for example
    “Child modeling agencies like to see a portfolio of the child, because it allows them to assess how photogenic without the need for a specific test photo shoot, but keep in mind that your child should have the right time for this crane”

    Many buttons marked
    “ Regsiter now”

    Then there’s :”Profit
    Printed portfolio allows the administrator or agent threw in an interview visit his picture book that the operation or campaign looking models speak. This gives the impression that you are serious about modeling and show that you have experience as a professional model.”

    I can only say- very badly educated people with a “ twisted”understanding of what the United Kingdom culture finds acceptable. That's me being subtle..
    Last edited by hollydays; Yesterday at 8:47 PM.
    • jackielim
    • By jackielim 17th Oct 17, 1:25 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    jackielim
    Well done.
    Casting collective has a Facebook page.
    Perhaps you should inform them about this “ company’s” activities.

    Where does ‘ iconoclast’ come into it; who or what are they?
    Originally posted by hollydays
    Thanks - please see below a quote from one of my older posts regarding the job ad.

    The job ad was purportedly for Iconoclast shooting summer catalogue photos for FREEMANS, JACAMO, LOOK AGAIN, PREMIER MAN. Seems like they keep reusing the same wording for job ads, as the Mirror investigator was shown a job ad for Jacamo paying £1,200.


    //Job Advertisement via First Step Modelling//

    Summer Catalogue

    Company: Iconoclast
    Catalogue : FREEMANS, JACAMO, LOOK AGAIN, PREMIER MAN
    Production Type: Online
    Location: Central London
    Salary: £1200
    Duration: 9th - 11th June
    Closing Date: 05/06/17
    Restrictions: Aged from 18 to 45
    Production Details: We are shooting a series of films for the Spring/Summer Catalogues. These will be used on their websites, as well as in-store to promote their seasonal clothing.
    Casting will take place beginning of June, with the shoot taking place on the 9th and 11th June, all in central London.

    The rate of £1200 will cover three days shooting, and include usage for 18 months in-store and online worldwide.

    The films will be comical and whimsical, with a very refined sense of style, and display the occasion wear and gifting offered during the summer season. Two will be produced, each 30 seconds in length.

    Select a character
    Fashion Models to represent clothing brands
    Description: Male and Female, 18-45
    Gender: Both
    Min Age: 18
    Max Age: 45

    //End of Job Advert//
    Originally posted by jackielim
    • hollydays
    • By hollydays 17th Oct 17, 8:24 PM
    • 15,343 Posts
    • 11,171 Thanks
    hollydays
    Jackie lim I think you are amazing
    I would love to see you keep this thread alive , this is what really hurts these people. We’ve seen companies get VERY upset at threads on mse-we’ve been threatened a few times when exposing HORRIBLE companies
    Reporting of the facts and EXPOSING them to,their respectable little communities is what counts.
    You have got your money back-you are clearly not someone to be messed with but if you could continue to keep this thread alive - that will be what destroys these’ people’
    • hollydays
    • By hollydays 17th Oct 17, 8:27 PM
    • 15,343 Posts
    • 11,171 Thanks
    hollydays
    I suggest you put a watch on the director on companies house webcheck
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