A group of fake model scouts conned women into sending them naked pictures – here’s how we busted them
They’ve been operating for years
A ring of creepy men have been working together to lure models with fake offers of work and then tricking them into posing nude on camera, babe can reveal. They pretend to be reps from top modeling agencies and dangle lucrative offers to star on the cover of prestigious fashion magazines with fake contracts and bogus "auditions." They've been operating for at least two years, and have scammed women in the US, the UK and Australia – most recently a famous porn star and a successful beauty blogger.
Babe has been on the trail of this sinister catfish ring, and today we can expose the head of the operation as Emrah Çiftçi, a Turkish man who has been secretly exploiting models, pressuring them for naked photos and sexual favors.
We interviewed the women who have fallen prey to his scheme and posed as an aspiring model to trick him into showing us his face. What emerged from our research is that we were not just dealing with one guy but a team of at least two men including Çiftçi, who all used the same contact info and tactics to cheat incriminating photographs out of women. Here's how we did it.
Be warned, this article contains a photo of a Turkish man's dick.
How the scam works
Jesse Jane, a former porn star and current model, fell into the scammer's web this week. She was emailed from an account named email@example.com and offered exactly the kind of work she had been looking for: a well-paid contract for an illustrious, glossy fashion mag. The man called himself Alex and said he worked at BMA Models, a leading fashion agency in London. He said he was looking for a model for the cover of an upcoming issue of Harper's Bazaar, and promised the job would pay $27,000.
"He told me, 'You have the face for what we’re looking for right now, you definitely have the look,'" Jesse said in an interview with babe. They spoke on WhatsApp before arranging a Skype interview last Monday. Alex asked to see Jesse in a dress and a bikini, and then asked her to pose topless.
"I get in the dress, he’s like, 'OK, turn around.' I turn around and he’s writing notes down. He’s looking at me in his big office and writing notes down. He was very professional about it. Then he said, ‘Now the bikini.’" Jesse described the man as long curly hair, glasses, no beard.
She knew Alex was looking for a model to star in an implied nude shoot – in which a model is posed to give the impression of nakedness – so when he asked to see her without a top on, no alarm bells rang. "That’s happened before," Jesse said. "If you’re doing a nude shoot or an implied shoot, they do want to see you without a bra so they can see what your body looks like. I didn’t think anything of it."
Alex said he would make Jesse a fashion icon and take special care of her, something he only did for his favorite models. He wrote: "In return, you need to seduce me on webcam (webcam pleasure)." Alex started bombarding her with messages, telling her to reply faster when she said her lawyer was going to review the contract. Alex told her to read sections 7 and 8 of the phony BMA contract, although those parts mention nothing about models providing sexual favors to agents.
"Your offer was a contract and modeling and then you are being a creep acting like it's my job to pleasure and seduce you and that's not how modeling works," Jesse responded. Alex hit back: "You are zero," and then sent a photo of his dick, included below. Jesse ended the conversation there.
Other models have recently been targeted by Alex. Em Sheldon, a beauty blogger and model from England, told babe she was sent a contract from firstname.lastname@example.org, which was named in an August 2016 tweet for sending out scams. That same year, Manchester agency Nemesis Models posted a warning: avoid messages from the Gmail accounts named management.founder and contactus.submission, as they had been posing as a company rep called Nigel.
We have had several notifications about the emails – MANAGEMENT.FOUNDER@GMAIL.COM & CONTACTUS.SUBMISSION@GMAIL.COM – contacting people impersonating Nigel Martin-Smith. This is not Nigel and this person has no affiliation with Nemesis Models. If you receive an email please let us know and do not get in contact with them. Thank you – Nemesis Models x
Em Sheldon smelled a rat when she looked at Alex's email – it was garbled and misspelled:
As you know , A scout that find a new face for an agency. When my assistant showed me the photos of you, I am impressed and I wanted to get in touch with you to show how we are serious about the proposal. As you can see, the agency is located in New York. We work on a modelling, advertisement and commercial film area.This is a serious proposal and I would prefer to talk to people face to face in real life. Some people can use a programme (photoshop) for the photos and videos. That's why, I need to make sure from you through skype before our meeting in person."
"I never replied to him as I knew it was a scam," Em told us. "I was so scared and concerned that so many young women will fall for this."
Who is the scammer?
We knew we had to track Alex down and reveal who he was, so we drew up a list of what we had on him: his phone number, four email addresses, a Skype name, two fake contracts and a rough description of what he looked like from Jesse.
We started with his phone – (365) 800-3978 – a Canadian number that is listed in Oshawa, Ontario. No other mentions of it appear online, nor is it connected to any social media profiles we could find. An IP address check on the emails he sent Jesse didn't give us anything useful.
Next up: the Microsoft Word files containing Jesse's fake contract. Going through the document's properties section, we saw that the last person who saved the document is named Edanur Çiftçi, who edited it shortly before sending it to her. The document author is listed as Abel.
We searched public databases and social media accounts for combinations of Edanur Çiftçi and Abel's names. We sent Jesse photographs of men who were possible suspects and she didn't recognize any of them. In any case, Edanur is a name given to Turkish women – and we were after a creepy man.
How we scammed him back
Unable to pin down exactly who Alex was, we set about catfishing the catfish in the hope it would reveal more about him. With the help of babe's Managing Editor Eleni Mitzali, we posed as a model looking for work, and emailed connectus.submission on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, we started receiving texts from the Canadian number. We sent him a link to a modified version of Eleni's Instagram account, with no mentions of babe. It took Alex five minutes before he said: "Send me some hot photos."
So we drew him out, sending him pictures from Eleni's Instagram, trying to get him to agree to Skype us. After pushing him, he agreed to a video call. That's when we started recording him onscreen.
This is the face of our scammer:
We texted this photo to Jesse, and never would have expected her response. She said this was a different guy. A different guy using the same email, Skype, phone number and techniques. Whoever this clown was, he had short, balding hair and a bushy mustache. Jesse's scammer had long curly hair and no beard.
Our man was very shifty on the video chat, and refused to speak. He typed answers to Eleni's verbal questions, typing to call her "my dear." Occasionally he would nod or give a thumbs-up. He said if Eleni sent him naked videos, he would arrange for her to be on the cover of Harper's Bazaar Spain. He got particularly animated when asking Eleni to pose for him, writing: "No clothes, implied, face, show passion."
He became increasingly agitated on the call, and hung up once when he heard the sound of a screenshot being taken (we reassured him that Eleni just wanted to send a photo of the conversation to her "mom" to reassure that she was safe and he seemed to buy it). Thinking we wouldn't be able to get anything useful from the call, we confronted him. Eleni showed him the dick pic sent to Jesse Jane. He took one look at it, then hung up.
Until he fucked up. It was such a simple fuck-up, we couldn't believe it. He watched Eleni's Instagram story using his very own, real account. Eleni saw his name on a list of people who watched her story: Emrah Çiftçi. And there he was.
A fuck-up so big it is visible from space.
We checked his account, and there was a video of him smoking a hookah pipe. It was him. Same last name, same glasses, same mustache, slightly longer hair in that first video, but still balding. Undoubtedly our guy. We told him we knew it was him, and he called us a bitch and deleted the video.
But not before we had downloaded it and put it on YouTube!
The following messages he sent us were bewildering. At one point, he offered what we thought was an explanation. "What I am doing is wrong," Çiftçi texted. "I just can not stop myself." Remorse? But then: "Will you show me your boobs."
If you're an aspiring model, and you get an email from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org – it's either Çiftçi or one of his friends. Do not answer him, block him, or at the very least send him back a photo of his own dick.
Model Alliance, a fashion industry activist group, advises against taking up offers that come through unsolicited messages. Bogus contracts and men asking to send suggestive photos is a common technique. "Additionally, if the message you receive is full of grammatical errors or promises you a meeting or job with a big-name photographer or designer, these are also warning signs that indicate a potential scam," they said.