Scammers cash in on fake prom dresses, buyer beware

EAU CLAIRE & STRUM, Wis. (WEAU) -- Next to her wedding dress, a prom dress is known as the second most beautiful gown a girl will ever wear. But before you go shopping for that dream dress this prom season, parents and daughters may want to watch out for scammers.

Linda Baxa, the owner of Marry-Go-Round in Strum, said she’s heard the horror stories before.

“Last year we had a girl who did like a dress here, who did go home and ordered it online. She was one of the few who came back and said ‘I’m sorry but wow that was a mistake’ and she showed us the picture on her phone, the dress was nothing like the photo, simply nothing like it,” said Baxa.

It’s a trap Chi-Hi junior Hope Perry hopes to avoid. She was out shopping with her mom for a prom dress at ‘The Dress’ in Eau Claire.

“I’m looking for a prom dress, something very sparkly and colorful and very just elegant,” said Perry. “And see what would be best on me instead of just looking online.”

Perry said it makes her feel better just knowing she can try on the dresses and take a dress home the same day. She also gets to experience the milestone of prom dress shopping with her mom.

“I think prom is a once in a lifetime moment,” said Baxa. “We just don’t want to add any negatives, like it came the day before prom or it wasn't what is thought it was going to be. When you try on a dress and you buy that dress, you take that out of the equation and you can enjoy the rest of your shopping and hair dos and tanning and nails and all the things we do to have a beautiful prom.”

We were able to find a “fraud” dress just by Google searching “cheap prom dresses.” It brought us to FabPartyDress.com. Baxa noted one of the 2014 genuine Mori Lee gown at her store retails from $450 to $500. The designer creates three different colors. On FabPartyDress.com, you can see the same copyrighted photo used on Mori Lee’s website. The dress goes for $185 and comes in 28 different colors. Baxa said if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Baxa said unless Mori Lee is allowing the store to carry its genuine item, using the copyrighted photo of the dress is illegal.

If you do want to buy a dress online, you can check the store's legitimacy by going to the designer's website and seeing if the store is listed as one of its carriers.

Just last month, a U.S. district court ruled that it's illegal for companies to misrepresent themselves by using copyrighted photos and selling illegal, fraudulent products. It shut down more than 1100 websites.

“What this means for the consumer is a bit of a risk now because any website can now be included in the ruling. So if you put money down on a dress where the picture is a copyrighted photo, you can lose all of your money because it is being seized by the government and the websites are being shut down. You will have no recourse for getting your money back,” said Baxa.

Fake dresses can be easily spotted. Baxa said typically, these websites are China based and the dresses are usually made of cheap fabric, size and color will be off, and the beading and design will be completely wrong.

An original dress also comes with tags sewn onto the garment, hangtags and be sure to check the spelling of the designer on the tag as well.

To spot a fraudulent website, Baxa said to check the “About Us” section. Look for a picture of the storefront, see if an owner’s name is listed or a manager’s name.

And read the reviews. If the English sounds broken, it's likely a con. Like this one we found on FabPartyDress.com:

“Reply by FabPartyDress 2013-08-18 01:20
Dear Customer,

Wow,It’s really a great pleasure to hear the good news from you. As you like it,pls kindly send us some pictures to share,we will give 20 coupon to you for free.Is that okay?thanks!

Nice shopping"

“We're just really against the illegality of using a photo and misrepresenting and then sending you something that will disappoint you for prom, when we would love the opportunity to make you happy and send you to prom in a beautiful dress,” said Baxa.


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