Scams to watch out for ahead of prom 2023, moving, wedding planning: Better Business Bureau

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Sunday, May 7, 2023
Better Business Bureau issues warning on moving, wedding, prom scams
Be cautious when looking for moving companies, planning a wedding and booking prom-related activities, the Better Business Bureau says.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The month of May is a popular time for movers, looking to transition to new homes. Unfortunately, it is also when moving scams tend to spike, according to the Better Business Bureau.

"Consumers need to know that there are many great moving companies available, but you have to do your homework to find them, and is a great place to start," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau. "We urge consumers to do their due diligence and read ratings and reviews before they hire movers. Over 1,100 complaints were filed with BBB against moving companies last year."

According to the BBB Scam Tracker, customers report hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to moving scams every year.

Common problems consumers allege in complaints and Scam Tracker reports include receiving a quote and paying a deposit, but the movers never show up. Other reports to the BBB include items showing up late or damaged or even being hijacked by a shoddy company and held until a higher price is paid.

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BBB recommends that consumers follow these guidelines:

Watch out for warning signs: When reviewing a company's website, if there is no address or information about a mover's registration or insurance, it is a sign that it may not possess the appropriate policies to protect a consumer's belongings. Additionally, it may not be a legitimate business if the mover uses a rented truck or offers an estimate over the phone before conducting an on-site inspection.

Be wary of unusual requests: If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may indicate a fraudulent business. If an individual's possessions are being held hostage for additional payment not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.

Get everything in writing: Though most professional movers do give quotes over the phone, it's still a good idea to get written documentation of all the services you are receiving. If an estimate seems too good to be true, it likely is. Get three written estimates from different movers based on visits to your home. Be sure the estimates are based on weight, not cubic feet, and opt for full-value replacement liability insurance. If at any point the services change, ensure that these changes are documented and understood by both parties.

Keep an inventory of your belongings: An inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. Label the boxes your belongings are packed in and what is in each box. Movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the mover's part. Taking photos of the contents before packing is a great way to prove if damages were incurred during the moving process.

Ask questions: Do not be afraid to ask questions about anything you don't understand. If the moving company can't or won't answer your questions, look for another company. Trust matters when hiring a moving company.

May is also a prime month for scammers to target young people headed to prom. The Better Business Bureau warns that unethical businesses are out there anxiously looking to take advantage of this demographic group.

"There are several concerns," Bernas said. "Prom-goers can find problems when they are buying or renting that perfect outfit. They can also run into difficulties when hiring a limo for the evening. With emotions running high and time pressures, people might make a fast decision based only on price. We urge consumers always take the time to do some research before they hand over that credit card or sign any agreements."

If you are renting clothing for the evening, there are things to remember, whether you rent online or in person.

Sizing: When renting clothing, it's important to ensure that the item fits well. Many rental companies will have size charts and measurements available, so be sure to take accurate measurements and compare them to the size chart before placing your order.

Quality: It's important to ensure that the clothing you're renting is in good condition. Be sure to inspect the item carefully before renting to check for any signs of damage or wear and tear that could affect your comfort or safety.

Hygiene: Clothing rental companies should clean and sanitize the items before renting them out, but it's still important to take precautions to ensure that the clothing is clean.

Return policy: Be sure to understand the rental company's return policy before renting any clothing. Some companies may charge additional fees for late returns or damage to the item, so it's important to read the fine print and understand your obligations as a renter.

Renting a limo can be a great way to make a big entrance and to travel safely on prom night but it's important to avoid getting ripped-off or having your evening ruined by a company that doesn't live up to its promises.

Some tips to help make it a perfect night:

Do your research and choose a reputable limo company: Book early, whenever possible.

Before signing a contract read the fine print: Look for overage charges and make sure the contract contains all the details of your event, including pick-up and drop-off times, itinerary, make and model of the car you will have, and the number of people traveling.

Get a copy of the contract and receipts for all payments made.

If a deposit is required, determine how much it will be and whether it is refundable should you need to cancel.

Understand the cancellation policy: Have a clear understanding of the cancellation policy and get it in writing.

Finally, as wedding season approaches, the Better Business Bureau is urging caution when planning for the big day.

Nationwide, paying for that perfect day costs on average, $28,000. In Illinois, the figure is slightly higher at $32,000.

Because of the intricate details involved, from choosing the venue, florist, caterer and photographer to the honeymoon location, couples face a labyrinth of decisions to have all go perfectly.

"To lessen the stress and simplify the process, brides often turn to wedding expos to take care of multiple to-dos at one event," Bernas said. "However, unfortunately, at times, that's where their problems may begin. Couples must be diligent and do their homework on businesses before signing any agreement. It's important to see reviews and ratings and a great place to start is by checking as a free referral source to find reputable businesses."

BBB Tips for shopping for wedding services:

  • Ask vendors for references: Don't rely on brochures or online reviews, which can be faked.
  • Watch for unexpected fees: Some caterers, hotels or reception venues try to charge extra for "plate splitting," "cake-cutting," or "corkage" fees, especially if you bring in a cake or liquor purchased from another source. Ask whether any fees will be added to the cost per person such as taxes and gratuities.
  • Dresses that don't measure up: Brides have complained to BBB about bridal shops ordering the wrong sizes and colors of gowns as well as dresses that arrive too late for timely alterations. Make sure your order specifies new merchandise, sized to fit you and your bridesmaids. Remind the shop of your schedule in advance.
  • Wedding transportation problems: Get details in writing including cancellation policies and ask how the company handles problems if you aren't satisfied. Don't pay the entire amount in advance.
  • Musicians: Couples shouldn't rely on a website, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. Find out where you can hear the musicians play before you hire them. Get a written commitment from the band or musician, including the amount of time they will play and costs to extend the time the night of the event.
  • Photographer issues: A common complaint is that the photographer a couple hired doesn't show up for the wedding or fails to deliver pictures until months after the wedding. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered.
  • Floral changes: Fresh flowers are a perishable commodity. Make sure there is a full understanding in writing on delivery time and on how changes or any problems will be handled.
  • Bridal gown preservation: Check with a reputable cleaner on the cost of cleaning and storage for your gown.
  • Do your research: Look at several sources for ratings and reviews and a great place to start is Remember vendor website reviews may not be reliable.