Prom dress scam: Websites targeting teens with fake designer gowns

Eric Horng Image
Friday, March 6, 2015
Prom dress websites target teens with fake designer gowns
There's a new warning for prom dress shoppers looking for the perfect dress online.

EAST DUNDEE, Ill. (WLS) -- There's a new warning for prom dress shoppers looking for the perfect dress online.

They may look like the real thing, with photos even lifted from designers' websites. The deep discounts are hard to resist, but buyers beware, as high school senior Jordan Winkler learned the hard way.

"When I got it, the dress looked completely different. On the top, the straps were different. And then the lace and the beading was falling off of the dress," Winkler said.

So Winkler was prom dress shopping at Complete Bridal in East Dundee, which actually sells the designer dresses that some websites claim to.

Complete Bridal owner David Gaffke showed us the difference between the real dress, priced at $420, and the knock-off, sold online for $180.

"All the beading goes all the way down. Not so much here. This has the ruching. This has ruching, but this has beads inside the ruching. It's what makes it expensive. This is just regular material," Gaffke said.

The counterfeit dresses are usually made in China and appear on numerous websites.

"Once these sites are closed down or shut down by the government sometimes or they shut down themselves, it's like whack-a-mole. Another one pops up," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.

Experts say a tell-tale sign the dress is a knock-off is if it's sold in many different colors. Designers usually offer a dress in, at most, a handful of colors.

Experts also say to never buy from a website with only an email address as a contact. And if there is an address, look it up to see if it's real.

Winkler says she never got her money back.

"I was really upset, and I tried calling the customer service line. And I never reached anyone, didn't get anywhere," Winkler said. "Go in early. Go into prom dress stores and bridal stores and get the dress that you see with your own eyes, and don't go off websites and order a dress off line."