How to Avoid Being Scammed Online by Prom Dress Counterfeiters

In the past we’ve written about how to avoid falling victim to counterfeit dresses and online scams, but with wedding and prom season once again upon us, we wanted to once again provide you with an updated guide to prevent you from falling prey to the many counterfeit websites online.

What Do We Mean by “Counterfeit?”

Before we begin, let’s first define what we mean by a “counterfeit” dress. A counterfeit dress is a dress where the seller has stolen an image from another company or designer and used it on their own website, representing it as their own work. Essentially, it’s false advertising. You, the potential buyer, look at the photo, assuming that it is the item you can purchase, when in fact, you are looking at a pirated image, that is, another company’s photo.

What does it mean when a company is using a pirated image? It means that the image used is of a product (in this case a modest prom dress) that they did not make. They didn’t make the dress, they didn’t take the photo, they didn’t do anything except steal the picture and claim they could make the same product.

An Original Designer Dress on the Left, with a Counterfeit to the Right

An example of what was advertised on the left, with what the customer received on the right

Not only does this rob from the hard work and money the original company spent producing the photo, it also gives a blatantly false impression to the consumer. It is nothing less than false advertising. They show you one product they did not make and claim the product as theirs. You, as the consumer, may then receive a dress that looks somewhat similar or nothing like the dress you ordered. It all depends on the seamstress who is assigned your order. Needless to say, this is a system with very little accountability and very little recourse for you as the consumer (more on this later).

Whatever counterfeit website you’re on, keep in mind they have not made the dress they’re selling. So what are they selling? Something that may or may not look like the photo. At times, manufacturers can get pretty close in replicating the stolen image. Other times, they are very far off. Take for example, these two photos below.

A Chinese Counterfeit Dress

What the customer thought she was buying on the left and what she received on the right.

A Jovani Original & a Counterfeit Dress Side by Side

A Jovani original on the left and the counterfeit on the right

How Can I Protect Myself?

So, how can you protect yourself from falling victim to an online scam? Here are some clues to look for when shopping online.

Clue #1: The Website is Written in Poor English

Take a moment to read the text on the page. If the English isn’t written well, that is a good sign that the website is an overseas, counterfeit website. For example, The Green Guide (one very popular counterfeit website) has sentences like “So be a chic without having to overdo your style.” With sentences like this one, it becomes apparent that whoever wrote this isn’t a native English speaker. Additionally, on the inner pages of The Green Guide, comments like “please be adviced that inappropriate reviews will be deleted and posted” reinforce the fact that this is not an American company, although they attempt to present themselves as one.

Clue #2: The Image Watermarks are from Another Company

A Product Photo from The Green Guide

This is another example from The Green Guide. The watermark on the photo says “Bridesire” but The Green Guide claims the photo is theirs, which begs the question: why isn’t their watermark on it? Although the product pages have captions that read “This finished dress was tailored and photographed by” the watermark on the product image has the name of another company, “Bridesire.” Additionally, there are also other products where The Green Guide doesn’t claim that the photographs are their own, which leads to the conclusion that all their images are pirated.

Clue #3: Odd Price Points

Most reputable retailers, whether expensive, inexpensive or anywhere in between, have pricing that we’re used to, say $65 for a cheap modest prom dress, or even $510 dollars. In contrast, the price points on The Green Guide are odd – they’re not rounded to fives or tens the way we’re used to. Amounts like $134.99 and $112.99 pepper the website. While this on its own might not raise a red flag, it is one more indicator that this website isn’t based in America.

Clue #4: Insufficient Contact Information

If you want to know whether a company is based in the US as opposed to overseas, one of the best ways to find out is to contact them! While we at Virtuous Prom may not always be near our phone, we do respond to all emails within 24 hours, and we do try to reply to voicemails within that same time frame. In other words, we’re easy to get a hold of. When we went to call The Green Guide’s number, we reached a message in Spanish with no option to switch to English. Additionally, their address is given as Bridgewater, NJ 08807, which is obviously an incomplete address. As to email, we emailed them before writing this post and still have yet to hear back, months later.

Clue #5: Social Media Prescence

Ask anyone in fashion (or retail, for that matter) and they will tell you social media is the lifeblood of advertising. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc are vital to establishing a company’s presence and building a brand. If the website you’re looking at doesn’t have any social media presence, this is a very good indication that they are an overseas, counterfeit company.

Clue #6: If It’s Too Good to be True, It Probably Is

Although there are exceptions in life, generally if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Deals like those found on The Green Guide and other counterfeit websites like AliExpress seem great, but keep in mind what they’re advertising is not what they’re selling. They’re selling something like the product they show, not the exact product. Additionally, there is  little to no accountability. Customer service is non-existent and their return policy requires you to mail your dress back to them (something that easily costs over $80), before they MAY refund you all or part of your purchase price. At the very least, there is a 20% restocking fee (in addition to the postage you’ve already paid). In sum, your purchase is a gamble and one we suspect many people don’t win.

So How Do you Find a Reputable Site?

Wherever you choose to buy your modest prom dress, bridesmaids dresses or modest wedding dress, be sure you do it through a reputable source. How do you know who’s reputable and who’s not though? Read on for some helpful tips.

Some Good Signs of a Reputable Seller are Things Like:

  • Do they have a phone number where you can call to speak to an actual human?
  • Do they respond to customer service emails?
  • Do they have a social media presence on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (most overseas, knock-off companies don’t bother with American social media platforms)?
  • Does their photography seem consistent in style or does it look like they’ve pilfered photos from a bunch of different designers? If their style doesn’t seem consistent, most likely they’ve done exactly that!
  • Trust your instincts. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • When in doubt, do your homework – use Google or another search engine to research their reputation and see what other people’s experiences have been.

For an ever-growing index of counterfeit websites, be sure to read our post, Buyer Beware – Forgers A’Plenty! Don’t have time to read the entire list? Here are some of the most popular counterfeit websites out there:

In Conclusion…

Finding a modest prom or wedding dress is hard enough without being defrauded by oversees vendors who are just looking to make a quick buck. Every year, thousands of girls across the country think they’re getting the dress of their dreams and an amazing deal, only to receive nothing but disappointment in the mail. No matter where you ultimately buy your dress, we ask you to please be vigilant and protect yourself against those companies looking to take advantage of you.