5 Scary Wedding Scams to Avoid This Season

The wrong call can mean the difference between an unforgettable wonderful day and a day that makes you angry every time you think about it.

Weddings require many important decisions and the wrong call can mean the difference between an unforgettable wonderful day and a day that makes you angry every time you think about it.

The often unreasonably high expectations of families and friends and at least one spouse-to-be only makes matters more fraught. With such a high level of stress, it’s only a matter of luck that mistakes don’t get made. Scam artists are counting on that.

There will be a repeating theme in this article, and it’s this: Be certain you know who you’re dealing with, and when you think you’re sure, check some more. Here are five wedding scams you want to avoid.

1. Sham Wedding Planners

Scammers take advantage of distraction, and there are few things in life so exquisitely discombobulating as the planning of a wedding. Add to that the high likelihood that the bride and groom may not be overly familiar with different kinds of transactions that help make an event run smoothly — purchases, contracts, rentals, hiring — and you have fertile ground for fraud.

It is a good rule of thumb to look for trouble when anything out of the ordinary comes up. I’ve heard of scams that were run through radio stations, where the “planner” offered a free wedding to a couple who couldn’t afford one and then raised the money from listeners. That counts as out of the ordinary, but the scam that lands in your inbox may be subtler. In the radio scam, vendors are hired but never paid. The “planner” skips town with all the money.

Another familiar scam involves blank checks and the flakiness of many vendor hires. A “planner” will ask the couple for checks written out for a specific amount but without filling in the payee because, they are told, it’s up in the air as to who’s going to get the gig. The scammer cashes all the checks, no one is hired and the wedding doesn’t happen quite so wonderfully as planned. (Here’s what you need to know about bounced checks.)

2. Pricey Wedding Photographer Scams

A photographer shows up and takes pictures. He sends proofs to you. They are tiny and low-resolution, but you can see they are fantastic. Next comes the bill.

Now, wedding photography is expensive, but we’re talking crazy-town prices here. One scammer banked $140,000 before getting nailed. The ruse: Take the money and never deliver the goods or extort a huge payment in exchange for them. The variation on this theme is taking a size-able deposit and simply not showing up.

3. Missing Flowers

When it comes to flower scams, we’re talking about a different line of business but very similar types of fraud. Maybe this scam takes the form of an independent contractor who assures you they make breathtaking arrangements for a fraction of the cost other places charge. All you have to do is write them a check for the flowers you need and show up to your wedding. They’ll handle everything. They never show up, and you can guess the rest.

How to Avoid Vendor Scams

There is no substitute for checking references. You should look for reviews online, but know that this will not help detect a fraudster with several aliases. Ask for references, no fewer than five, and then call them.

Bear in mind that a quality scammer may have a wing man or two, but not five. That said, you never know. Maybe they’ll give you what you request. You still have some agency here. Listen carefully to the references when you call, because if they’re not for real you’ll be able to tell. Get detailed. Be friendly. You’re getting married. They know how great and frenzied that can be (if they are for real).

Additional tactics: Ask about the reference provider’s honeymoon or for the name of another vendor used at their wedding. Be creative. Do your homework, and you won’t get got by these kinds of scams.

4. Gift Theft

According to Vogue, the average cost of a wedding gift in 2016 for a co-worker or distant relative was $50 to $75. For someone closer, it was $75 to $150. While some gifts are purchased online and sent straight to the home of the newlyweds, many are brought to the wedding. And you guessed it — thieves are waiting to steal them.

To avoid the tragedy of walking wedding gifts, make arrangements to either have all the gifts watched or stored somewhere secure.

5. Home Invasion

Nothing like a wedding to signal to a home-invasion specialist exactly when you and your relatives will for sure not be home. The best rule of thumb here is to avoid making public the precise plans for your wedding.

But assuming word gets out, what should you do? Let your neighbors know you’ll be away and ask them to keep an eye on things. If you have an alarm system, make sure it’s armed. It’s also worth calling your local police department to explain your concern. It depends where you live, but they may send a car out to check on your house while you’re away.

Weddings bring out the best and worst in people, but there are ways to ensure you protect what should be one of the most joyous occasions of your life. Avoiding scams is 99.9% a matter of approaching transactions with caution and common sense. When planning your wedding, take the time to make it the time of your life.

Finally, if you have reason to believe you’ve been the victim of fraud, don’t shrug it off. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

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5 Common Wedding Rip-Offs — & How to Avoid Them

common-wedding-rip-offs

Your wedding day is only going to happen once — at least that is the plan — so your instinct might be to ignore the costs and make everything just perfect. In fact, that seems to be what a lot of people are doing, as the average wedding in the United States reportedly costs $26,444. (Note: It is possible to budget and save for your wedding, and even have a debt-free wedding.) While stretching the budget might make sense for a special occasion, you likely don’t want to overspend or get scammed in the process.

General Advice

First is the old adage about things that seem too good to be true. You might think you’re going to save a few bucks with a “too good to be true” deal, but if the item ends up being low quality, or you don’t get it at all, you’ve likely cost yourself a lot more. To help avoid this, the Better Business Bureau advises you get everything in writing. Get signed contracts laying out exactly what you expect from each vendor. Many will have contracts pre-prepared that they use with every client. While these can be a good starting point, be sure to read the contracts carefully. Don’t be afraid to talk with the vendor about eliminating details you don’t agree with, or adding in things that are important to you — the vendors should be willing to negotiate to meet your needs.

You may also want to consider wedding insurance. If your baker flakes out and doesn’t bring the cake, there’s not much you can do to make one appear, but with the insurance in place, at least you may be able to get some of your money back. This can also help if there’s some kind of accident or act-of-God type event.

Beyond those, here are five wedding rip-offs to watch out for.

1. Counterfeit Dresses

According to The Wedding Report, the average bride spends more than $1,200 on her wedding dress, though that number can be much higher for brides wanting a designer label. If that’s what you’re interested in, just be sure the label is real. There are federal requirements about what needs to appear on a label, so that can be worth checking out, but that alone isn’t always enough. One common scam involves a dress (particularly one ordered online) being passed off as a high-quality designer product, but instead you get a knock-off made poorly and from inferior materials. To help avoid this, consider buying at a brick-and-mortar shop, and be sure of the return policy before you purchase anything.

That may not always be enough, either. There have been reports of bridal shops that were struggling financially and took money for a dress (often at a steep discount), then closed their doors before the bride got her dress. Using a credit card may help you get some of the money back, though it won’t get you a dress.

2. Vanishing Vendors

There are stories out there of people posing as DJs, photographers, florists — pretty much any of the outside contractors you might employ — who take a deposit and then vanish. Make sure you check on everyone you plan to do business with. Websites like TheKnot, Weddingwire and the Better Business Bureau offer vendor reviews that can help you find reputable businesses in your area.

Also, don’t forget word of mouth — if you loved the flowers at a friend’s wedding, ask them who they used and if they encountered any behind-the-scenes problems. Your venue may also have a list of vendors it often works with.

3. Bridal Show Shenanigans

Bridal shows can be overwhelming with the variety of different products and services available. Be wary of any giveaways you might sign up for, though. That honeymoon hotel stay might not cover taxes or the airfare to get you there and back. Always read the fine print, understand the privacy policies and be very careful about which businesses and people you share your information with.

4. Gift Theft

While you (hopefully) don’t have to worry about your friends and family walking off with a gift, you don’t want this to be a problem. Help reduce your chances of experiencing any losses by placing the gift table far from the doors, and deputizing a family member to keep an eye on it.

5. Home Burglary

Placing a wedding announcement in your local newspaper or on Facebook is a good way to let people know about your special day. It’s also a good way to broadcast that you won’t be home that day, and if you include the dates of your honeymoon, you’ve given burglars a nice window of opportunity. Make sure neighbors know you’ll be away and ask someone to keep an eye on your place for any signs of trouble (or you can even have a trusted friend or family member stay in the house, if you feel more comfortable with that). And before you head out on your honeymoon, remember to take security precautions beforehand, like stopping the mail, newspaper and other deliveries, as these items piling up can be a sign that no one is around. Also, let your credit card companies know when and where you’ll be traveling so your purchases from out-of-the-way places don’t prompt them to put a hold on your card.

[Editor’s Note: Carrying high levels of debt, whether from your wedding expenses or something else, may hurt your credit scores. You can see where your credit currently stands by taking a look at two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

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