From counterfeit dresses to endangered vendors and stolen gifts, there are many ways that unsuspecting couples can become victims of fraud or theft. Although the pandemic has forced many to postpone or cut back on their celebrations, marriage scams have persisted.
In May, a Chicago couple lost $ 3,500 when their wedding photographer ghosted them. Another couple from Melvindale, Michigan, had nearly all of their gifts stolen during their wedding last August. And then there are the dozens of brides in Black Forest, Colorado, who filed lawsuits this year against a place owner who kept their deposits after the place was forced to suddenly shut down for operating without a license. With a surge in weddings set to take place next year, there could be an increase in marriage scams in 2022.
There are, however, steps couples can take to prevent these types of marriage horror stories. Here are four common ploys and ways to avoid them.
A deposit or initial payment is collected but the services are never rendered. In a recent Ohio case, the state attorney general is suing a florist who accepted down payments from customers but then failed to deliver flowers at their weddings.
How to avoid: It might sound simple, but ask for recommendations before you hire someone. A good place to start is with an event planner. “Wedding planners know, from their experience, suppliers that can be trusted,” said Jennifer Stein, editor-in-chief of Destination I Do, a wedding magazine and website.
Can’t find a seller by word of mouth? Jessica Bishop, founder of Budget Savvy Bride, a wedding counseling site for low-budget couples, suggests looking for local businesses on Knot and Wedding Wire. âBoth websites are good resources for real customer reviews,â she said.
Couples need to take additional steps to monitor businesses, such as seeing if the business has had any consumer complaints with the Better Business Bureau. And ask for references from potential suppliers. âCrooks are looking for quick cash,â Ms. Stein said, âwhich means most crooks won’t take the time to create a bogus referral.â
When looking for referrals, ask a vendor to introduce you to their three most recent clients. This way, you don’t just talk to customers who have been handpicked by the salesperson to sing their praises.
Counterfeit wedding dresses
A designer dress is ordered from an online store at a significant discount, but the dress you receive is from another designer or is in poor condition.
âPeople can create what looks like a really fancy online store, but when their products arrive, they’re not of the quality that customers expect,â said Katherine Hutt, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau.
How to avoid: One economical option is to buy a second-hand dress, but again, you need to be careful about where you shop if you are shopping online. Before closing a sale, see what customers are saying about the retailer. One useful website is Sitejabber, where consumers leave reviews of businesses. Plug in the retailer’s web address and Sitejabber will display statistics such as the number of positive reviews received by a site in the past 12 months.
Some reputable online retailers specializing in second-hand clothing, Bishop said, include Still White, Occasion Wedding Dresses, and Nearly Newlywed.
If you’re looking to save money on a dress, Ms. Stein also suggests checking out sample sales at local bridal shops. âThat way you get a deal while supporting a small business,â she said.
And one more piece of advice, Bishop says: âPay with a credit card, if possible, so you can file a dispute with your credit card company if something goes wrong. “
Tin engagement rings
The purchased ring turns out to have a fake diamond or a stone that did not have the advertised value. The Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit industry group that classifies and certifies gemstones based on the dimensions and characteristics of a stone, recently reported an increase in the number of lab-grown diamonds that have been submitted for verification. with counterfeit inscriptions referring to natural GIA diamonds. . (Natural diamonds are more valuable in the resale market than lab-grown diamonds.)
How to avoid:
Doing business with a reputable jeweler can reduce the risk. Ms. Stein, whose grandfather was a jeweler, also suggests having a gemstone appraised before buying it. Jewelers may request a professional appraisal for you from a third party; some may charge a nominal fee for this service. When appraising a diamond, check if its weight is the same as that advertised by the seller. (Sterling Jewelers, the operator of Florida-based company Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit for allegedly overestimating the weight of diamonds.)
Ms. Stein also urges couples to purchase a gemstone certified by the Gemological Institute of America. (A GIA certificate will verify the âfour Csâ of a diamond: size, clarity, color and carat weight.)
Wedding gifts are stolen by an uninvited attendee. For example, a woman from Mississippi was sentenced earlier this year to five years in prison for stealing money and gifts from more than a dozen weddings she attended uninvited.
How to avoid: To prevent theft, Hutt suggests that couples store their gifts in a safe place, like a hotel room, or even in a locked box, rather than in the open. Better yet, request that all gifts be purchased through your marriage registry or shipped to you, âshe said.
Rachel Slauer, an Atlanta wedding and event planner, said she has seen customers hire security guards to secure their gifts. She added that some sites require couples to engage their own security for the duration of the event.