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    Consumer Alert

    Planning a wedding makes you a target for scams

    It’s high season for weddings, and time to remind those planning them that they’re a ripe target for scams and shady operators.

    The reason is fairly obvious. Once someone says they’re going to have a wedding, a lot of money comes into play. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is nearly $28,000, according to a survey of about 18,000 couples by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, both websites for wedding planning.

    While there might be some hiccups along the way, most brides and grooms will avoid getting ripped off. Others may not be so lucky.

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    The Better Business Bureau in Worcester recently issued an alert about SureShot Portraits in Milbury, which shut down after it was paid to shoot photos and videos of a lot of weddings around Massachusetts, but delivered nothing. A little due diligence would have revealed a history of problems.

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    The company’s website has been taken down, no one answered the phone, and a message was not returned.

    Then there are websites — lots and lots of websites — selling everything for weddings, including dresses. Most of the shady sites are based in China, giving US consumers virtually no recourse. Some take the money, but don’t deliver the goods. Others ship a different style dress than ordered and refuse to take it back. Their stories are all over SiteJabber.com, where consumers rate and comment on websites.

    “It’s heartbreaking to read the stories of brides who find the dress of their dreams online only to learn just days or weeks before their wedding that they have been taken by scammers,” said SiteJabber cofounder Jeremy Gin. “While there are tens of thousands of wedding dress scams floating around on the Internet, there are also many legitimate online stores to buy wedding dresses. For this reason, it’s critical for all brides to be sure to check reviews of online stores before buying the dress of their dreams.”

    If you see a dress at a store selling for $2,500 then find it online for $300, assume something isn’t right about that website. If you apply that to any aspect of wedding planning and do your homework on vendors, you should avoid the slimiest of those looking to prey on you.

    Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and
    also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.