HONOLULU (KHON2) — CrimeStoppers and the Honolulu Police Department are warning the public about an increase in what is being called a “modeling scam.” Within the last week, five cases have been reported.

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In the cases, scammers pose as modeling scouts. They pretend to recruit teens, primarily teenage girls, via Instagram and then ask the teens to send them inappropriate photos, with little to no clothing.

“(The scammers) are basically grooming them saying, ‘You know that you look beautiful… We think you have what it takes to be a model. Go ahead and send us some photos.’ And it starts off pretty innocently like that. And then they ask for these inappropriate photos and these children are falling victim to the point where they actually are sending these photos.”

Sgt. Chris Kim

The scammers are also sending cars to pick up the teens and bring them to meet in-person at malls around Oahu.

“These suspects are here locally, and the only reason we suspect that is because they are offering to send over an Uber or Lyft or what have you, to pick these kids up and bring them to a local mall,” said Sgt. Chris Kim with CrimeStoppers.

Cyber expert Chris Duque said more criminals are turning to virtual scams like these.

“Because of the pandemic, the use of the internet and social media has spiked dramatically,” said Duque. “The criminals go where people are. So, the more people are going to the internet, you’ll see more nefarious activities by the criminals (there).”

However, Duque said there are red flags you can look for, such as if the person asks for personal information like birth dates, social security numbers and home addresses. He said from this case, the teenagers probably gave the scammers their address, which is why those scammers were able to send a car for a meet-up. He said to also watch out if they ask for pictures first without a contract signed.

“You don’t know who you’re communicating with. And once they’ve got your photographs, they got you, because they can blackmail,” said Duque.

He said reputable modeling agencies will always work with a teen’s parents.

“If it’s a real agency, they’re going to have a modeling release (form), and if the (model is) underage, (the modeling company is) going to require that their parents sign off on approval. The parents are then going to be present for the photoshoot,” said Duque.

CrimeStoppers said it is important for parents to talk about the dangers of social media with their kids.

“I think children need to know about the hidden dangers that are out there and that there are these type of predators looking for these potential victims. The tactics that (these predators are) using, these kids are falling for it, and it’s just unfortunate. We just need to be very careful and make sure just as parents, to go in and talk to children about these types of things that are happening.”

Sgt. Chris Kim

Those who have gone through a similar situation can contact police at 911 to file a report. For any questions or tips on these cases, contact CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

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