Wedding crashers: Avoid these 5 scams this season

Don’t let the big day be ruined by bad guys

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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.

Adam Levin, chair­man and co-founder of Credit.com and Cyber­Scout (for­mer­ly IDT911)

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 siz­able 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 wing­man 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 per­cent 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.

Full dis­clo­sure: Cyber­Scout spon­sors Third­Cer­tain­ty. This sto­ry orig­i­nat­ed as an Op/Ed con­tri­bu­tion to Credit.com and does not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent the views of the com­pa­ny or its partners.

 

More on iden­ti­ty theft:
Iden­ti­ty Theft: What You Need to Know
3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email
How Can You Tell If Your Iden­ti­ty Has Been Stolen?