Planning a wedding can be an overwhelming experience. From guest lists and seating plans to booking the right creatives, managing family dynamics and finding the perfect dress to honeymoons and gift registries, there’s a lot to keep track of. It’s an ideal time for scammers to strike.
Here are the top five scams to be aware of while you’re getting ready for your big day.
1. Vendor Scams
Weddings are like a pop-up shop in buying mode. You may be outsourcing parts of your wedding to-do list, from flower arrangements to wedding planners, photographers, DJs and caterers. Beware unscrupulous vendors who either overpromise and underdeliver or simply vanish with your money. Be sure to request references and call them listening for anything that might tell you fraud is on the horizon. Check online reviews, and get agreements with signatures that clearly state the terms of service. If someone is offering their services at a fraction of the cost of their competitors, it’s an immediate red flag. Never pay upfront.
2. Counterfeit Wedding Dress Scams
Wedding dresses are expensive, especially if you consider that you wear them only once. Beware e-commerce websites promising designer dresses at steep discounts. Be especially careful if the deal ships from overseas. If you receive anything, it may be a cheap, non-returnable knock-off. Make sure the website offering a deal looks well-established and has plenty of reviews. Verify that there is accurate contact information that passes a quick Google search test. Finally, check that they have a return policy. If you see a $3000 dress for $300, you should assume it’s a scam.
3. Wedding Expo Scams
Wedding expos are a great way to check off several pre-wedding boxes from your to-do list at once. You can sample cakes, shop for dresses and interact with vendors all in one place. This assumes that the expo itself is a real event. Check to make sure that a wedding expo is at a known venue and features reputable vendors and businesses. Don’t pay fees upfront to attend (you should be able to pay at the door).
4. Fake Honeymoons
For couples busy with the minutiae of planning a wedding, honeymoons at all-inclusive resorts can be a great option. It’s an appealing choice; travel to an exotic locale and have other people handle everything while you and your new spouse relax.
It also makes you an ideal target for scammers, especially in other countries. You may be charged high upfront fees for vacation packages that don’t exist. Once again, doing research ahead of time is crucial. Check reviews for resorts. Confirm that the photos and locations online match what you’re expecting. And, only book through well-established services with cancellation and refund policies.
5. Identity Theft
The process of getting married typically involves a lot of paperwork, especially if there is a name change. Driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, new tax forms, passports and wedding licenses all leave a paper trail that can make you vulnerable to identity theft. Be careful with any documentation; store your important papers in a secure location and shred any paperwork that you no longer need.
There’s a lot you can do to make the wedding planning process scam-free. Start by setting up a separate email address and phone number for your wedding planning process. This way vendors can not sell your personal information. But top of mind, assume the worst. Check to make sure everything is legit, and proceed with caution, because there are scams everywhere.
Adam K. Levin is a nationally recognized expert on cybersecurity, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance and has distinguished himself as a fierce consumer advocate for the past 50 years. Former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Levin is the founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves and host of the podcast What the Hack with Adam Levin.
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