According to the Federal Trade Organization, romance scams cost people $304 million in 2020. That’s more than double 2018 when losses totaled a $143 million.
Sadly, this eye-popping trend will continue so long as people continue to post their information online in their search for “the one.”
Romance scams aren’t just about getting catfished on Tinder. As wedding season approaches, it’s essential to acquaint yourself with the myriad of scams targeting couples getting ready to tie the knot, and avoid making your wedding more expensive than it already is.
Seven common wedding scams:
- Fake vendors: According to Consumer Notice, the fake vendor trick is one of the most common wedding scams. There are countless stories of wedding planners, photographers, DJs, and even entire venues that take your money, then don’t rise to the occasion–or even show up.Tip: Always get references for anyone you’re hiring to help with the big day, and check them.
- Hostage-taking photographers: A photographer is hired, and s/he shows up, taking beautiful pictures all the while, but when it comes time for delivery s/he demands more money than you agreed upon to deliver them.Tip: Again, check references.
- The counterfeit dress scam: This one is pretty common. A company offers designer dresses at an unbelievable price. Typically, the offer comes from a place overseas. After making your purchase, either nothing is sent or you get a horrible knockoff and there is no way to return it.Tip: While there are deals to be had, always be circumspect when you find one that seems too good to be true. (It probably is.)
- Identity theft: There are many kinds of identity theft, but this one focuses on brides who change their name after the wedding and don’t carefully dispose of their old information. Scammers can use old documents to make purchases or set up credit cards.Tip: Be careful about the information you include on your wedding registry and social media post. Scammers can do a lot with just a little personal data.
- Wedding crashers: Posting the address and time of your wedding on social media can provide an opportunity for the Owen Wilsons and Vince Vaughns of the world to infiltrate your party and steal gifts. Don’t do it.
- Fake bride (or groom): There are cases of people sending money (typically overseas) to a fiance they’ve never met in person. According to one United States Embassy, the scammer typically asks for a sum of money to travel to the US. They may even say US law requires funding to travel, which is not the case.
- Fake honeymoon: According to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, some scammers sell fake honeymoon packages to couples who think they’re getting a great deal at an all-inclusive resort when in fact they are buying a lie.
The best way to avoid a con is to keep your wits about you. With all the emotion and stress of a wedding, that’s easier said than done.
Having a solid plan from the start can help you get set up for success and avoid pitfalls.
- Do your research: vet potential vendors before you book or hire them. Yelp and Facebook are great places to start because even vendors at wedding expos can be con artists. According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, you should inquire with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints against anyone you are considering.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is: Getting a $3,000 dress for $30 should raise red flags.
- Meet in person: This is true for fiancées and potential vendors.
- Ask questions: Good ones include, “What’s your plan for the day?” and “How much do I need to pay upfront?” The more information you have, the better your chance of catching a con artist in a lie.
- Pay by credit card: They often offer scam protection.
- Sign a contract: This is especially important for vendors you haven’t worked with previously. Be sure to read the fine print before you do.
- Ask for help: You may not be able to handle preparing for the wedding and thinking about scammers, but getting an outside perspective can help you avoid bad decisions. Running suspicious, or even non-suspicious, activities by a clear-headed person who isn’t directly involved in the situation can be helpful.