The line snaked through the hallway of the Washington Convention Center. People from all over the Washington area clenched coolers full of gourmet treats they’d whipped up at home.
“I’m really nervous,” one wannabe cook admitted.
“I worked at McDonald’s as a manager,” another explained.
A woman at the back of the line laughed when asked what she does for her real job. “I’m a rocket scientist.”
Only one thing could bring a group of people like this together: A shot at being on TV.
"I think being on TV is kind of exciting!" said one.
They were lined up to audition for a new NBC cooking competition show called "Food Fighters." And all were quick with an answer when they asked how they found out about the audition:
"I just found out about this last night."
"I got word they were doing a casting call for a NBC cooking show."
"I got a random email."
Fortunately for all of these hopefuls, this was the real deal.
But the News4 I-Team has discovered that emails are one of the ways phony casting call scams lure in victims.
That includes Belinda Reifke in Jessup, Md.
Reifke loves to win prizes and, as she explained, she's pretty good at it. "I won a trip to New York City to have a private concert with Rod Stewart. Trip to Cancun. Trip to see Adam Lambert in person. Movie tickets. There are so many things I can't remember! It's just so much fun."
But what she’s always wanted is to be on a game show, such as the former NBC hit "Deal or No Deal" with Howie Mandel. So, when an email arrived in her inbox that said she had been selected to be on the show, Reifke “was really excited.”
"I was like, 'Oh my God!' and I freaked out and was like, 'Oh goodness!' 'Wow!'"
But when she clicked on the link to confirm, nothing happened. Worried she'd just unleashed a virus on her computer, Reifke called News4 looking for help.
NBC Entertainment told the News4 I-Team they see these kind of email scams all the time. Sometimes the links do lead to a virus, allowing others to steal your information.
Other scammers want money.
Using a quick Google search, we found plenty of suspicious-looking casting calls within just a few minutes.
A spokesperson for NBC Entertainment said, "At last count there were more than four fake casting web sites for The Voice charging anywhere from $10 to $2,000 for a 'private casting' for The Voice."
Erin Tomasello has been a casting producer for ten years. “If someone is asking you for money, red alert," she said. "Red flag, guys. It's not a real casting call. We're paid to find you!"
The News4 I-Team caught up with Tomasello at the casting call for "Food Fighters," where she explained to the hopefuls that she’s “the personality judge. I want energy, I want personality!"
Tomasello has worked on shows including "The Bachelor," "Master Chef," "Fear Factor" and "Let’s Make a Deal."
"You only get a very short time to impress me," she said.
She and other experts we talked to had these tips to avoid being taken by a casting scam:
- Don't give away your cash. Real shows never ask you to pay to play.
- Do your homework. New shows may not have a title or a website, but check out the production company.
- Research the name of the casting producer.
- And make sure the show is still on the air.
Looking back, Reifke said she should have realized her email was fake because "Deal or No Deal" went off the airwaves in the United States more than three years ago.
She admitted she probably fell for it because she wanted to be on a game show so badly. "I'm going to keep trying until I get through to one of them," she said.