Last November, I spoke with a content creator who claimed a talent agent stole $60,000 from her. The scam was complicated: The Carter Agency told brands that they were representing the influencers and then approached influencers pretending to be the brand. When they presented their offer, it was far lower than what the brand actually brought to the table—and the agency pocketed the difference.
Since then, more creators have stepped forward to share their experiences with the Carter Agency. One lost $40,000. Another lost between $20,000 to $30,000. And another lost $10,000. The story rocked the creator world and has now become the standard reference point for a talent agency scam.
This however, was not an isolated incident. The latest example of a creator agency scam comes from Derek Campanile who specializes in making food content. Earlier this week Campanile posted a video about how his talent agent Dustin Parker from PMG Worldwide was stealing money from him.
According to Campanile, Parker first told him contracted payments from brands were delayed then that he was unable to transfer the funds to Campanile’s account before ceasing communication completely.
When Campanile started digging for answers, he found a video posted by TikTok creator Erica Kuiper, who posts food reviews and recipes for over two million followers. In June, she posted a video claiming Parker never paid her the $22,000 she was owed for posting three pieces of content.
Other agencies have also been notorious for scamming their clients. Talent agency My Influencers required a $38 signing fee but still made people reach out to brands themselves, ultimately failing to actually represent their clients. Similarly, IQ Advantage asked for $299 from new clients but never helped them acquire brand deals and never refunded their upfront payments.
It’s clear why these types of scams run rampant in the creator economy. The industry has exploded in recent years, which means a number of people are looking for representation to help them navigate their business dealings. And although smaller creators have become a cornerstone of the industry, many don’t have the industry connections that could help guide them towards better, more legitimate representation. OnlyFans models have experienced similar scams, where agencies will reach out to burgeoning talent and end up pocketing most of the cash.
In some respects, the influencer agency scam is merely the consequence of a growing industry still in its early days. Creators, many of whom are young, amass massive followings practically overnight and those who want to turn internet success into a career have to quickly navigate brand deals and contracts. It’s easy then to see why having a talent agent to assist with brand deals is an enticing offer. And since payments in the field can be wildly different, many creators are unable to determine which offers presented to them are legitimate.
Which is why, creators need to do their own research to ensure that they are signing contracts with reputable management firms and look into who else a talent agent represents. At the very least, search their name on YouTube or TikTok. If they have done something sketchy, someone has probably uploaded a storytime about it.