They thought it was an opportunity to become a star.
The Trimbles had no idea they'd get taken. They first heard about it on the radio.
"It didn't cost anything to go look," Michelle Trimble said.
Starry-eyed Grace Trimble and her mom, Michelle, went to a Tulsa hotel with hundreds of other people to audition for a bubble gum commercial.
"She read it to me over and over until she had it memorized. She was so excited," Michelle said. Talent agents poured on the praise.
"They were like you're going to be the next Top Model and Disney star," Grace said.
This could be Grace's big shot. They said all Grace needed was training - $3,900 worth. And the company needed the money that day. Michelle paid. But the company name that showed up on the credit card statement was different than the one agents used at the audition.
Turns out, the company name, address and supposed training were all phony.
"It made me feel really bad that it was fake and that they'd lied to me," Grace said.
"I was angry with myself. I felt like I'd been taken," Michelle said.
Angie Goins can spot the shady ones immediately. She's worked on the inside. She was a talent scout. Angie thought she was helping kids become stars. But their parents were coming back angry.
"Wow, there were people who paid, and are livid, really upset," she said.
They'd paid more than one thousand dollars to sign up. But Angie says they weren't getting any jobs or auditions. Angie realized the company was making money solely on sign-ups and that she was just their pawn.
"They said be sure to keep an eye out for girls 13 through 16. They get excited and can talk theirs into dad into anything," she said.
She quit after only a month and wants to warn parents.
"These agencies are saying we need you, we need you, and just wanting to sign up anybody who walks in the door," Angie said.
Don Hull with Linda Layman's Talent Agency in Tulsa hears it, too.
"I do hear it all the time, (parents) already spent thousands of dollars and nothing came out of it," he said.
FOX23 checked his agency, which has been in business in Tulsa for 38 years. It has a flawless record with the Better Business Bureau. Don helps Tulsans get their start, like actress and model Amber Valetta.
"We make our money as an agency booking people. We make a commission and they make money," Don said.
Here are Don's four red flags:
- If the agency's from out of town. "They'll be in a hotel," Don said.
- If agents want money to sign up, and they give a deadline. "The stage isn't going to turn into a pumpkin at 5 o'clock," Don said.
- If they guarantee work. "There's no guarantees," Don said.
- If your kid's "got the look". "Flattery will get your anywhere sometimes. So that's what they'll do to get you to write that check," Don said.
Michelle did write that check.
"If they they're going to make your child famous overnight, that's a red flag," Michelle said. "The reality is, it's hard work. It doesn't happen over night."
Grace isn't giving up.
"I still want to do it... because it's my dream," Grace said.
Michelle did eventually get her $3900 back, but it took six weeks of fighting and help from her credit card company and her attorney.
To check on a talent agency, you can contact the Better Business Bureau. The phone number is (918)492-1266.
You can also check any business name on the website: www.bbb.org
. Click on "USA Site" and then click on the "Check out a Business or Charity" tab.