Investigation Unit: Wedding Ripoffs

Before you buy your dream wedding dress, what should you do to make sure you don't get duped on your way to the alter? 

Maria Ray wanted a fancy designer dress. It retailed for $1,200, too expensive for her budget.

So she searched online, found it for $400, and ordered it immediately.
"I loved that dress, I could not get that dress out of my head," said Ray.

She got a terrible "replica" dress with a mishmash of unglued lace, a floppy corset top with missing boning, and a disgusting rusty pin, stuck in the dress that poked her.

Ray said, "I e-mailed them back and said 'are you crazy? Do you think I will wear this dress on my wedding day?'"

Though the company's website boasted a seven day money back return policy, she sent the dress back and never got her money.

"I was very heartbroken," said Ray.

Our investigation found hundreds more heartbroken brides across the country, all victims of scammers who prey on women hoping to find a discount designer dress.

"In this economy budgets have become tighter and tighter and you have women who've spent their entire lives dreaming about a particular wedding gown but when it comes time to make a purchase they can't afford the one they want," said Jeremy Gin of

Independent consumer review website "site jabber" reports a huge spike in wedding dress scams.

The federal trade commission says it's gotten scores of complaints.

Maria fell for the counterfeit dress scheme, something this bridal shop owner hears about all the time.

Bridal shop owner Frank Hambicki said, "The reality is very, very cheap imitation."

Hambicki even bought a replica dress online.

The fake gown's beads are made of plastic, the detail and lace is completely off, the hemlines are rotten and the trains are no where near the same size.    

Hambicki shows brides this dress comparison when they say they can find them cheaper online.

"They're thinking maybe the boutiques the bridal stores are charging too much for it," said Hambicki.

The other scam? Dresses that never show.

Natasha Dennisuk loved a $6,400 beauty.

While searching online she found it, advertised, pictures and all for $1,850.

The seller claimed the bargain price was because she lost her finance in a car accident.

Natasha wired her money and never got the gown.

She now warns other brides, "Watch out for scammers, brides caught up in wedding planning fever are easy targets."

Dennisuk said, "It's that one thing we've always thought about and it's the most important thing for our wedding day."

How can you avoid being ripped off?

Always pay with a credit, not debit card and never wire money.

You have more rights to dispute purchases with credit cards.

If you're going to search online for a dress use it to investigate the dress company too.

Look for consumer reviews and also plug in the dress company's address into Google maps.

Use the satellite view and see what the place looks like. Is it a parking lot? An abandoned warehouse?

Those are obvious red flags.

Many of the counterfeit dresses come from china.

You may even want to try calling the website's customer service number, try talking to their reps and see if you feel comfortable with them.

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