Models do need portfolios but when an agency is really interested in a girl and thinks she can make it as a model they will not ask for any money to help build it.
A comp card is the models equivalent of a business card.
There are some tell-tale signs that an agent or modeling agency is not above board. They will never suggest to you that you need to spend money to make money.
When an agency has a genuine interest in you as a model there are certain things they will never ask of you, and a few seemingly outlandish things that they might. If an agent sees real potential in you that is where they will make their money, by taking a reasonable cut of the work that they get for you (usually no more than 15%).
An agency that wants to develop and represent you will never ask you to pay for your own comp card or for the pictures necessary to make one.
This is a cost-effective way for modeling agencies to build a model's portfolio as well as establish contacts within the industry.
It is usually about the size of a 4x6 photograph, has between three and five shots of a model with different looks and includes a brief bio with basic info like eye color, hair color, height, weight, age, and shoe size.
Some aspiring models do pay for these themselves but these are girls who are looking to be signed, not models with an offer on the table.
Legitimate modeling agencies will not ask an inexperienced model who likely has a lot to learn about their best angles and how to pose to take risqué photos.
What they may ask is for you to take a picture in a bikini or even lingerie but these shots will be catalog-looking, soft, somewhat innocent and not overly provocative.