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How to spot a counterfeit prom dress

Knockoff gowns and the websites that sell them abound. Do you really want a cheaply made imitation?

By MSN Money Partner Mar 20, 2013 4:14PM

This post comes from MSN Money contributor Mitch Lipka.


Image: Prom couple (© Digital Vision/Digital Vision Ltd.)If you're looking for the perfect prom dress and are imagining the photos that you'll have for a lifetime, you might want to consider how that could end up looking if you buy a cheap, knockoff dress online.


It is easy to get lured to sites, typically based in China, that appear to be offering name-brand dresses at deep discounts. These sites tend to actually fulfill orders -- they're not really big on returns -- and what you end up with is anyone's guess. But expect a cheaply made imitation of the real thing.


The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association has already identified more than 450 counterfeit websites that have sold more than a half-million counterfeit gowns. Indeed, knockoffs of all sorts are a continuing challenge for online shoppers.


But your prom dress? Do you really want to take that chance?


"It's hard to visit any online venue without running across sites that are hawking fakes. Worse still, it's getting harder and harder for consumers to discern the real McCoy from the fakes due to clever marketing, slick sites and plausible discounts from counterfeiters taking advantage of digital channels," said Fred Felman, CMO of the brand protection firm MarkMonitor.


What consumers stand to lose can also be far greater than just the experience of receiving a junky dress.

"Without a little care, it could be disastrous for the buyer. Not only are the goods poorly made and low quality, the consumer will likely encounter shipping delays and could even risk having their (credit) card number or identity stolen by counterfeiters," he said. "There's no shame among them, and they aren't looking for return business."


The Pennsylvania-based online retailer has a guide to spotting online fakes,  as well as a video illustrating the difference between a genuine name-brand dress and its counterfeit.


To help avoid getting scammed by a counterfeiting site, MarkMonitor suggests looking at the following:

  • Price. If it's too good to be true, that's a red flag, and consumers should be extra vigilant.
  • The site itself. Some sites look really professional at first glance, but brandjackers aren't always careful with the About or FAQ page. 
  • Returns policy. Reputable sites spell that out for you.
  • Privacy policy. Counterfeiters don't usually invest the time to craft a clear, strong privacy policy.
  • Reputation. Is the site or seller mentioned on any of the scam warning sites? Do a search for "vendor+scam" and see what comes up.

More on MSN Money:

Mar 21, 2013 12:10PM
Its a prom dress: i.e. its only going to be worn once for a few hours.  So only a fool wouldn't look for the least costly possibility.  Silly question on my part (yes I'm a guy who thinks fashion is a load of b.s.) why aren't prom dresses rent-able like tux's?
Mar 21, 2013 6:12PM
Although its not mentioned in this article, has the biggest list of reputable prom websites on the internet.  They check every retailer out using the designer brands as references to make sure what they are selling is legit.
Mar 21, 2013 6:16AM
No wonder here. Just look how the majority of you completely ignorant Americans drive. You have literally no concept of  turn signals (no they aren't so you know where you're going, it's so other drivers know when you're going to do something stupid). You retards have no idea what a "Yield" sign means. You race up to red lights at 50 mph, just to stand on the brakes and wait like everyone else. I'm starting to see people stopping at red lights, and the running right through them, (this tends to be a certain ethnic problem). You sub-morons tailgate (why? I go slower just to further irritate you idiots). Kids learn from their irresponsible parents. You should be so proud.
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