Avoid pageant scams

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Participating in a beauty pageant might provide a rewarding experience, but many would-be contestants find that some pageant promoters do not deliver what they promise. There are legitimate pageants, but there are also those whose only purpose is to fatten the pockets of promoters.

Before finding yourself scammed out of thousands of dollars, it's important to check out the pageant operator with the BBB first. Before entering a pageant, parents and others who want to get involved should consider the following questions:

How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors? Usually, pageants are operated by for-profit organizations that solicit participants to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter.

What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone? Oftentimes, family or business sponsors are asked to pay a sponsorship fee to the pageant promoter to cover hotel rental fees, awards, administrative costs and salary for company personnel, and to generate company profits. Also, keep in mind that there are other costs for entrants, such as clothing, make-up, food and lodging.

Can the location of the pageant company be verified? Where and when will the pageant be held? What accommodations are provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?

Do all of the details add up? Are there judges, and what are their qualifications? Do they have any affiliation with the company? How are the winners chosen? What are the obligations of the winning contestant? What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant? Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

Do the winnings sound too good to be true? If so, they probably are.

Be sure to read any contract carefully and thoroughly in advance to understand the rights and responsibilities of the winner or other contestants.

REACH KELVIN COLLINS, THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA AND THE CSRA INC., AT (800) 763-4222 OR WWW.BBB.ORG.

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