Photo: Garrett Richardson Photography
Your wedding budget may not be the $1.4 million estimate for the upcoming Royal Wedding, but you still want to make sure to protect your money and your identity when you’re getting married. Wedding season is here, and scams associated with weddings are almost as common as bad bridesmaid dresses.
Wedding-related scams come in many forms, and all have the potential to separate newlyweds from their money, potentially ruining what is often the biggest day of their lives. These wedding scams may start well before the day the bride and groom exchange rings and become a married couple.
Photo: Lane Dittoe
Wedding Dress Scams
Learning how to avoid wedding dress scams is also a big priority for brides looking for the dress of their dreams on their wedding day. That’s especially so given that the average price of a wedding gown is $1,564.
Wedding dress scams can happen whether you’re buying or selling a wedding dress. Brides looking to save money while still getting a quality dress are being scammed by fly-by-night companies. Such companies don’t deliver the dress at all, or who send a dress that’s damaged or not what the buyer wanted. Also, women looking to sell a wedding dress need to look out for bounced checks or try to steal your personal data, claiming they “need” the information to process a payment.
Photo: Lane Dittoe
Tips on Avoiding Wedding Dress Scams for Buyers
There is one major wedding dress buyers can be targeted for a scam, and it has the potential to ruin a bride’s wedding experience.
Women looking to buy a wedding dress need to tread cautiously. The biggest threat are websites that promise to deliver a wedding dress to a buyer, but either fail to do so or deliver an inferior or damaged wedding dress. Red flags when using such sites include the following:
- Wedding dress prices for $200 or less, which should trigger skepticism from buyers.
- The online site is based in China. Large amounts of fraudulent wedding dress sales happen on these.
- There are no terms and conditions included in the sales deal or agreement. That indicates the wedding dress buyer will have no leverage in getting a refund, especially from a geographically distant seller who doesn’t operate under U.S. laws.
Women who are looking online for wedding dresses should take the following steps to avoid wedding dress fraud:
1. Vet the Seller
You can check sites such as SiteJabber.com and the online wedding forums mentioned above for reviews as well. If you notice repeated comments about dresses not arriving on time or not living up to what was sold to brides, your best bet is to go somewhere else for it.
2. Get the Contact Information
Buyers should also check the website to ensure there is a working phone number and/or an email address to register any complaints stemming from the sale of a wedding dress.
3. Check the Designer
Buyers should check any wedding dress designer touted by an online wedding dress provider. The designer’s website should have a list of authorized dress retailers that sell their wares. If the online wedding dress site is not listed, you’re taking your chances buying a wedding dress from them.
4. Check the Website’s Images
Wedding dress buyers should also closely review any photos or images on the dress seller’s site, especially those images featuring models. Check to see if the model’s photo image is cropped, or if no copyrighted image language can be viewed. If so, that could mean the wedding dress seller is using the image without permission and is more likely to do other things that aren’t legit.
5. Don’t Pay in Full Before You Get Your Dress
Deposits are common for wedding dresses. However, if you put 100% of the money down when you place the order you have no leverage with the store if something goes wrong. You could get scammed, not get what you were promised, not get your dress on time, or even get something that isn’t the right size. (It’s not a scam, but there are common stories of a salesperson convincing a bride to get a certain size and it ends up requires tons of alterations, so you have to pay even more to get the dress you want.)
Photo: Lane Dittoe
Tips on Avoiding Wedding Dress Scams for Sellers
After your wedding, if you decide to sell your dress online you’ll also want to be careful to not get scammed by something like non-payment or the loss of personal data.
Fraudulent checks are the most-common wedding dress scam targeting women selling a wedding dress. Bogus check writers see an online advertisement for a wedding dress, contact the seller, and say they’ll purchase the dress with a check. Usually, the buyer will encourage the seller to “rush” the purchase process, and urge the seller to deposit the check as soon as possible.
The amount on the check will be more than the agreed-upon purchase process, leading the buyer to request a return of the overpayment via cash, bank wire transfer, or Western Union. Once the excess amount is received, the buyer takes the money and runs, leaving the seller with a worthless check.
Wedding dress check scammers are growing more sophisticated, and are adept at printing fraudulent checks that look all too real. In the event a wedding dress seller has a buyer who wants to pay by check, avoid any fraud activity by taking the following steps:
- Don’t accept and deposit a check that’s written for more the amount you agreed upon.
- Attempt to limit your wedding dress sale to local buyers, buyers you know, or use a legitimate, well-known platform to sell it. The Knot recommends Nearly Newly Wed and Tradesy.
- If you suspect that a payment method seems suspicious, insist on a common payment platform like PayPal.
- Always keep your banking information secret, especially your bank account number and routing number.
- Review any checks received for suspicious markings (like spelling errors or missing data) that could indicate the check is fraudulent.
In addition, wedding dress sellers should never allow a buyer to rush them into a deal. Instead, take your time and make sure the buyer is legitimate and the payment method is secure. Also, never provide any personal data or information that isn’t critical to the purchase agreement—it could be a way that fraudsters try to steal your identity.
Photo: Beth Joy Photography
beware of dress shops going out of businessThere may be different situations, but it’s important to stay in touch or check in with your dress shop or retailer periodically even if you have several months between your order and the expected delivery date. Even large retailers can go under, like Alfred Angelo, which filed bankruptcy and abruptly closed doors in 2017 leaving brides without their wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses after paying for them.
There are also some other common—and costly—wedding vendor-related scams that newlyweds may need to confront and conquer:
Photo: Radion Photography
Choosing an engagement ring or wedding ring is difficult enough without the prospect of getting ripped off with a dubious diamond. Ring shoppers frequently get drawn into buying a phony ring, or a ring that isn’t as valuable as advertised. Major price markups, sketchy diamonds, and deals that seem too good to be true are common occurrences for ring shoppers.
Avoid such scams by bringing in a professional ring appraiser to evaluate the quality of a diamond. If that’s not possible, ask the dealer if any non-certified diamonds are on display. If so, either avoid them or ask for a steep discount, as they’re not the quality certified by the Gemological Institute of America. The GIA is deemed by industry experts to be the top gemstone rating agency in the world. Having a GIA-approved certificate for a ring means it underwent a rigorous inspection and is graded by professional gemologists.
Additionally, if you’re buying a ring online, check customer reviews to see if the gem in question may be less than advertised.
Photo: Mike Arick
Unscrupulous wedding plannersNo-show or “low-show” wedding planners can ruin the bride and groom’s big day—and their bank account—by not following through on promised services or providing low-quality services. As with any wedding vendor, make sure your wedding planner is fully vetted and is given a solid rating by the Better Business Bureau.
You can also check out forums on sites like Wedding Chicks, Wedding Wire, and The Knot, for ratings, information on working with wedding planners, vendors and other tips.
Also, ask for references from your potential wedding planner (if they don’t provide any, keep looking) and be wary of any wedding planner who asks for a hefty deposit for services (more than 50% of the total cost is excessive). Insist on a signed contract and include a provision for a “60-day prior” meeting to make sure wedding-related services are on schedule and within your budget.
Photo: Eileen Lacey E Events Co.
Wedding vendor scams
Another area where fraudulent activity occurs can be with specific wedding vendors, like a photographer/videographer, caterer, entertainer, and/or floral specialist. The last thing a bride and groom need is a no-show photographer or band, or a low-quality floral arrangement or catering experience. As with a wedding planner, vet any wedding vendor, ask for references, have a contract, and don’t put too much money down front before hiring them.
Get ahead of any potential problems by asking trusted friends or relatives for recommendations and hire local, rather than out of town, to reduce the risk of problems.
Photo: Maura Jane Photography
In conclusion: Be on the lookout for wedding scams
Newlyweds have every right to use any legitimate means possible to cut the best deal they can when planning for their wedding day. Just know that wedding scam artists are out there, so the best strategy to take is to vet anyone you’re hiring, carefully scrutinize the legitimacy of online deals, and be cautious when making payments to wedding vendors. Don’t let your emotions lead you into a bad situation because you fall in love with something promised to you.
Proceed cautiously and carefully, and you’ll up the odds of your wedding experience being a positive one—free of fraudsters and full of joy for the future. Read more about other common scams here.
This article appeared on the Experian blog. Brian O’Connell is a former Wall Street bond trader and the author of two best-selling books; “The 401k Millionaire” and “CNBC’s Creating Wealth”, he has 20 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, technology, political and career management sectors.