4 key wedding scam areas to be on the alert for if you're planning or involved in a wedding: Internet Scambusters #384
If you're planning to marry or know someone who is, beware the wedding scam.
From bogus bridal shows and unqualified officiators to a bridal variation of the Nigerian advance fee scam, the tricksters are out to ruin the big day.
In this issue, we highlight the key areas where you need to take special care in your planning or involvement with a wedding.
Let's check out today's...
Make Sure A Wedding Scam Doesn't Ruin The Big Day
Spring is the most popular time for weddings -- so it's also the peak period for wedding scams.
You might have read recently of a wedding scam in Boston, when thousands of brides-to-be and bridal service exhibitors were conned into paying for tickets and booths at a non-existent Home and Bride Show.
And, as the Boston non-event demonstrated, they're targeted not just at the bride and groom but also at photographers, wedding planners and others involved in what is supposed to be a wonderful day.
So this week we highlight four key areas where everyone involved in weddings needs to be on the alert.
- Phony EventsWe're thinking of two wedding scams here:* Exhibitions and shows like the one in Boston, which were promoted through a website and probably cost victims in excess of $100,000.Action: Always check the credentials/references of anyone who claims to be organizing an event. If they don't have a track record, be wary -- at the very least avoid paying in advance.
* Bogus weddings -- a Nigerian advance payment trick, in which a photographer or wedding planner is "booked," receives a check that turns out to be worthless, and is asked to wire cash payments to another "service provider," who is actually the scammer.
Action: Just don't ever agree to do this, however plausible it sounds. Tell whoever contacts you that it's simply not your policy. Anyway, never wire cash to someone you don't know or are not 110% sure of.
Check out our earlier issue on Nigerian advance fee scams.
- Service Providers Who Let You DownYes, they do that -- bridal gown makers and suppliers, bakers, caterers, entertainers, wedding planners and even venues can let you down, either by unintentionally failing to deliver or through an out-and-out wedding scam in which they never intended to play their part.In particular, the recession has driven many of these types out of business -- and the less reputable ones head for the hills with their customers' cash.Action: A reputable wedding planner (get references) can take a lot of the risk out of organizing the big day, including conducting all the necessary checks, though they probably won't be involved in buying the wedding dress (see also below).
Also consider taking out insurance for things that might go wrong.
If you're doing it yourself, try to spread the hard work of checking everything out, including eyeballing venues and going to see entertainers in action.
- The Dress Label Wedding ScamYou wouldn't credit it but a number of wedding gown suppliers have been in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for mislabeling dresses or even switching labels.They might do this to disguise the origin of the dress, the fabric content or the cleaning instructions. You could pay a fortune for a "silk" dress that's actually cheap fabric worth only a fraction of the cost.It's not illegal for a bridal salon to insert its own label in a gown but the FTC does have stringent rules about what retailers and manufacturers can and can't do.
Action: It's mainly down to reputation here. You're unlikely to have the time to check out the accuracy of the label, but you can perhaps ask the vendor if the labeling complies with FTC regulations, to let them know you know.
If you're having the dress altered, again check out the reputation of the service. If you're in any doubt, get a written contract from them stating what will be done, how much it is expected to cost and when it will be completed.
- The Overseas Wedding ScamHappily, getting married abroad does not generally lead to a scam but it sometimes still can be a fraught and troublesome business.The main risks to watch out for:* Weddings not officially recorded. There was a widely-reported incident in the Dominican Republic in which hundreds of couples paid for weddings that were never recorded.
* Weddings conducted by people not qualified to officiate.
* Extra charges and overpricing for services.
* A marriage license that is not recognized in your home country.
Action: Again, a qualified, reputable wedding planner in your chosen venue will help. Otherwise, consider a pre-visit to the location.
In your home country check with the embassy, consulate or tourist information bureau of the country in which you're planning to wed, about who can perform weddings and what the licensing system is.
Then check with the authorities in the community where you're marrying, that the individual is registered and qualified. Also check with them afterwards that the marriage has been recorded.
For US citizens, the Department of State has a useful guide on marrying abroad. Check with them, or the equivalent in your home country, about recognition of marriage abroad.
Some general information on marriage in a limited number of countries can also be obtained from Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520.
American embassies and consulates abroad frequently have information too about marriage in the country in which they are located.
In addition, even if you're getting married in your home country but perhaps plan on a non-religious or non-traditional marriage, it's as well to check with your state Attorney General's office on who is permitted to officiate.
For many people, getting married is one of the most memorable days of their lives. Just make sure it's memorable for the right reason and not for a wedding scam.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.