To be successful in the modeling industry, it helps to have the assistance of a modeling agency. However, scammers and con artists know they can easily entice aspiring models into handing over hundreds or thousands of dollars in the false attempt to "make them a star." Protect yourself by knowing exactly what a real, legit modeling agency does and how to spot the telltale signs of a fake one.

Ask questions. A good, legitimate agency should have no problem providing you with detailed answers about their company and should gladly offer references if needed. If the person with whom you are speaking is hesistant to reveal information or is very eager to have you sign a contract and pay upfront fees, chances are you're dealing with a scam. Stay away from agencies who aggressively advertise in the newspaper, free local magazines or on the radio. Well-known, reputable agencies don't need to advertise.

Find out if the agency signs talent for free or if they charge upfront fees. A modeling agency that requires you to pay fees for representation before you get any work is not legitimate. Most agencies should explain on their website that they don't charge any fees and will only take a percentage of what you are paid when you get work. If an agency requires you to send money or pay for a professional photographer to develop your portfolio before you sign with them, then they're probably not legit.

Note if the agency lists clients they've represented and the types of jobs they book for their models. Look through the agency's roster of models and examine the quality of work they've done.

Legitimate modeling agencies operate during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. If a modeling agency wants you to meet in the evening or on the weekend, it's probably not a safe bet. Look for the agency's business license when you visit. If it is in plain view, then it's a legitimate modeling agency. Note whether they display high-quality photographs of their models. If you see photos that look cheesy or look scanned or photocopied, then you've probably stumbled on a fake.

Be wary of an agency that pushes you to pay for services such as classes and photoshoots. Real agencies provide these services to their models for free.

Review all contracts and paperwork carefully. Legitimate agencies only take money from their clients on commission. At the time of publication, they usually take about 20 percent from the jobs you book.