Worried about getting scammed? Sadly, you should be. "Brides are more vulnerable than other fashion consumers when it comes to buying bridal dresses online because they're not likely to be buying from a place where they have a regular relationship," says Susan Scafidi, a professor at Fordham University who specializes in fashion law. "It's worth investing the time in advance to do your homework." Here, five warning signs to be wary of when shopping for your wedding gown:
Bad reviews on reliable sites
Search for the website name on reputable wedding boards and online forums like SiteJabber to see whether other people have registered complaints about quality or customer service. "A lot of the review sites that appear on Google aren't legitimate because some companies pay them to give good reviews, so you have to search trustworthy sources of information," explains Jeremy Gin, CEO and co-founder of federally funded SiteJabber.com, where consumers can post reviews about e-commerce sites.
Inaccuracies and inconsistencies
Take a close look at the site: Misspellings and grammatical errors are a good indication that you're dealing with con artists. Gin also suggests looking up the company's address on Google street view so you can see what the actual store looks like (if it even exists!) "If they don't have a working phone number, that's also a bad sign," he says.
A re-stocking fee requirement
If the site promises refunds only with a restocking fee, "that may indicate that they make their money by sending things out that are unacceptable and then offering [minimal] refunds rather than selling products people want to keep," Scafidi explains.
When the same picture of the same dress keeps popping up not only on the designer's site or a well-known boutique's site but on lots of other sites, think about where it came from and check the designer's site to make sure the retailer where you see the photo is in fact an authorized dealer.
Literally unbelievable deals
"If every gown has deep discounts, start to be suspicious of what kind of retailer you're dealing with," says Scafidi. Bottom line: when it looks or sounds too good to be true, it is!