Scam agencies

If you're considering getting into escorting, you're a target for many scam operations.

The most common is the registration fee scam, but you should also watch out for the overpayment scam and the methods people will use to try to get free sex, which are also discussed here.

The Registration Fee Scam

Watch out: the fee may be sold to you as many things other than a registration fee, and some scammers are quite clever about hiding it. This type of scam commonly targets models (where people are invited to join a "modelling agency" which requires them to pay to create a portfolio), it can also be used on actors and for many more mundane jobs. Recently it's become popular for getting money out of wannabe escorts.

Con artists advertise that they need escorts in classified ads, professional-looking websites and even in glossy magazines. Whoever you are, they'll tell you that they have clients looking for people like you for whatever kind of escort work you want to do, and they'll often say that they have some work lined up for you already. You have to pay though. This may be a one-off registration fee, a periodic subscription, or it they might say it's for security checks, insurance, administration, driving, or whatever else they can think of. Once you've paid you'll either hear nothing else from them, or any bookings you get will be cancelled or there'll be no client at the place you're told to go. There might be some kind of satisfaction guarantee, but if you ask for your money back you'll find it's not what it seems (like these guys).

It's true that in some area of life you need to speculate to accumulate, but being an escort with an agency isn't one of them. Escort agencies take on escorts, advertise the agency, take calls from clients and set up bookings. Only when their escorts have been paid for the booking do they take a fee, in the form of a commission charged on every booking. This is usually 30%, but may be more if you work in a premises which the agency provides.

There are a lot of websites that take a monthly or annual fee in return for featuring you on the website but these aren't agencies, they're advertising sites for independent escorts. Most of them aren't worth the money, and if they're posing as agencies you should be very suspicious.

Some fake agencies are quite sneaky about the fee — there was one that proudly claimed to have no upfront fees. It worked by giving you the first month free. During that time, a booking would be arranged but later cancelled. Another booking would be requested, but after the initial free month, so you'd need to pay the fee if you wanted to accept it. The unfortunate people who got this far would turn up to the booking to find no client.

There is only one reason a genuine agency may ask you to part with money before you get a booking, and that's for photos. Just about every agency operates online these days and they'll be able to promote you more effectively if their clients can view your pictures. They may be happy to use pictures that you provide, but if you don't have any or they don't like the ones you have, they'll probably want you to do a shoot with their in-house or preferred photographer. Don't give an agency money just because they say it's for photos though; use your intelligence and think critically. Are there any of the warning signs below? Are they established? Can you find evidence that they really do offer an escort service to real clients in your area? If you're not sure about paying for photos, agencies should be able to get you some work initially by promoting you on the phone.

The people who operate these scams often aren't upfront about the fees, so here's how to spot the fakes before they ask for your cash:

  1. If they're marketing to escorts, not clients.
    Nowhere is the demand for escorts so high that clients are in surplus and escorts are sought after, it's not how business works! Every service provider needs a steady stream of clients to make money, especially the sort of money these people promise. Therefor a real agency only needs a few good escorts on the books; they spend the rest of their resources seeking clients for them. Whether it's a website or advert you're looking at, look at it from the perspective of a client. If it has less to offer clients then it's offering escorts, it's not going to attract clients.
  2. If they make claims of unrealistic, undiscriminating demand.
    "There's a huge emerging market of women seeking male escorts." "There are loads of women out there who want to pay you to have sex with them." Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? That's right, it's too good and it's not true. In the heterosexual sex and dating market, women are in demand, not men. Sure, sometimes women get horny or want some company and don't have a man readily available, but they don't go looking for anyone with a penis who they can pay to spend time with them. That's a separate topic though, back to this one.
  3. The other market scammers invent is the one for social escorts.
    This one is a lot more believable because of the "time and company" fiction that agencies use in the hope that it will help them avoid prosecution (many independents use it too, not realising that selling sex is legal in the UK). It's a fiction though: we're being paid for sex. Not always full penetrative sex, sometimes more talking and cuddling then sexual intercourse, but it's still about the sex. Plenty of clients do like to take an escort to dinner, sometimes to social functions or on holiday, but most of them will want to have sex at some point. Like the market for straight male escorts, the market for escorts who only escort is very very small. If you just see a disclaimer saying payment is for time and companionship only, you're dealing with an agency that doesn't want to admit that it's offering sex partners for a fee. If someone emphasises the fact that you're not expected to have sex, they're almost certainly running a scam.
    If you're dedicated you can try to find the few clients who want a straight male escort, or someone who'll just go to dinner with them, but giving someone money because they promise the world isn't the way to do it.
    If they're not marketing specifically to straight men or women who don't want to have sex, they'll just say that they need men and women of all ages and it doesn't matter what you look like as long as you have a good personality. This sounds very nice, but it's only because your money's as good to them whoever you are.
  4. If you have to register to see the escorts.
    This is something that scam agencies often do and real agencies rarely do. When using an agency, clients don't want to put a lot of effort in, they want to see the girls and book one. To make things worse, some of the fake agencies won't even let you make a booking with one of their escorts if you try.

If you want to know more, have a look at SW5's list of cons [LINK]. Don't think that watching out for the names on the list will protect you though, most scammers drop their name as soon as too many bad reports appear and take a new one.

If you want something to be done about the scams, you can complain to the place where you saw the advert, or the Advertising Standards Authority. You can also click on their google ads a lot since they pay for every click.

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The Overpayment Scam

This is a well-documented scam that you're likely to come across at some point outside of the sex industry. When it comes to escorting this scam usually targets independents, but it could be used against you if you work for an agency, with or without your agent collaborating. What happens is someone pays for your services using some kind of cheque or international money transfer, but for some reason they give you more than your fee. You're then asked to either return the difference, or send it someone else. The payment you received then turns out to be fraudulent and you're left out of pocket.

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The Audition Scam

This isn't a way of getting money from you, just free sex. There's one guy in particular who calls girls that are new on the scene claiming to be from a very exclusive agency where you can make hundreds of pounds an hour for all sorts of jetsetting glamourous work. He says they're interested in you and eventually gets to the point: you have to have sex with one of their male escorts. Presumably anyone who does it is found to be not good enough and never hears from him again. An "audition" could also be with the owner or with a regular. Just don't do it. You don't need to demonstrate you skills before you can be an escort. You might also apply to a real agency and be asked to give the boss a blow job but it's not to test your skills, it's just because he wants a free blow job and is hoping you're not clued up enough to refuse.

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False Payment Scams

This is mostly likely to happen with an "agency" that approaches you after seeing your details advertised somewhere, but also be wary of agencies without any feedback on third-party sites. The "agent" will offer you a booking and say that they're dealing with the payment (they'll usually say that client is paying by credit card) and you'll be able to collect it from them. You'll do the booking but never get any money for it because it's not a real agency and no money ever changed hands. Simple. There are real agencies that take payment by credit card, but you shouldn't accept a booking that doesn't involve you being paid cash until you're confident you can trust your agent.

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The Golden Rule

The most effective way to avoid being taken advantage of is not to give anyone money or perform any services until you've been paid. You shouldn't consider yourself to have been paid unless you have cash in your hand, in a currency you're familiar with. Don't accept cheques (they can be found to be fraudulent even after the funds clear, and the cheque guarantee card scheme has ended), credit cards, PayPal, or international money transfers. Even regular clients have been known to bounce cheques, and some methods of payment including business cheques can get you in trouble for money laundering.

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How To Find A Good Agency

It depends what type of escort you want to be.

'Social-only' escorting is something there's very little demand for, whether you're a man or woman. We don't know of any real agencies that deal with this kind of work.

Female escorts, if you're willing to have sex with men it's good news for you, there are agencies all over the country. Some agencies only take on young skinny women, so if you're older or bigger you may find you have to work independently instead. Don't worry though, the demand is there and many of us have done well without ever working for an agency.

Since good agencies spend their advertising budgets trying to attract clients, look for them like you would if you were a client looking for an escort. Putting "[your town] escorts" into google is an easy way to start (but remember to avoid the scams), and you might also find adverts in local publications. Well-established listings sites are also a good place to look. In the UK, try the Punterlink list of agencies in London and the rest of the country, or search for establishments in the Punternet Service Provider Database.

Look at local message boards and national review sites (punternet, punterlink and puntingzone) for feedback and reviews of agencies you're considering. Ideally you'd want to hear from women who've worked for the agency, but failing that, reviews from clients are useful. An agency won't be much use to you if it's not popular with clients.

When you approach agencies, call them rather than emailing to start with, so that if they're no longer in business you'll know. The best agencies conduct interviews in person rather than just asking you to send pictures, and an interview is a good chance for you to get an idea of what the agency is like. You may go for an interview in what turns out to be a dodgy office with people taking drugs. While this isn't that unusual, it's not a sign of a professional operation and not something you need to tolerate. You may also be asked to undress or perform sexual acts, but this isn't something that good agencies require or request.

Ask how your working hours would be managed, as this varies. Ask what the agency does to protect you. They should do some kind of check to confirm each client's location (this usually means calling the hotel if they're in one, or using directory enquiries or the electoral roll to confirm their home address), keep up with warnings in the area, and check you're ok once the booking is over. They may also have drivers who can act as security for you (although you'll have to pay the driver's fee yourself). When you start working for an agency it's worth having someone else who knows where you're going, as some agents are lax with security.

Gay male escorts mostly work independently, advertising on websites and in magazines. You might be able to find an agency to work for in gay publications.

Straight male escorts almost all fail. If you're just hoping for some sex and easy cash, give up the dream. Even if you do well, don't expect to be able to quit your day job. This message board post gives a realistic assessment of your options.

Lesbian escorts are in a slightly better position than straight men, but not by much. There isn't much demand and there are no lesbian agencies. You might be able to get a bit of work by advertising yourself in lesbian publications and promoting yourself on message boards, but most of the response will be from other women wondering how they can do lesbian escorting too.

Scamblog has compiled a list of agencies that are known to operate scam practices and probably should be avoided.