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How to Avoid Wedding Vendor Scams

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How To Avoid Wedding Vendor Scams.

Wedding scams are more common than you’d think.  I’ve personally worked with a few different couples who have unfortunately fallen for wedding scams, and a photographer friend of mine had their entire business identity stolen and used to create a scamming operation.  As someone who’s been in the wedding service business for several years and served over 50 weddings, here’s my guide to avoiding wedding scams.

 

To avoid scams, first we need to understand how they work.  Obviously this is a continually changing landscape, but there are three main types of scams, which are: Stolen business identity operations, fake businesses, and negligent vendors.  

 

Stolen business identity operations basically recreate either a website or social media profile of a legitimate business, and then collect deposits from couples who think they are booking the legitimate wedding vendor.  These deposits can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and typically after you pay that deposit to the scammer, they’ll disappear and ignore any contact you try to make with them.

 

Fake business operate under a similar principle to the stolen business identity, except that they don’t try to fully impersonate another business.  Usually they’ll offer really good prices that might seem too good to be true, which it often is.  They make money the same way as the previous scam, by collecting a deposit, then ghosting you.

 

Finally, negligent vendors are usually not premeditated scams, but can often leave you in a similar situation to you being scammed by a seasoned scammer, and in some situations even worse.  Most of the time this happens with vendors that have a deliverable that comes after the wedding like the photos from a photographer, or a wedding film from a videographer.  

 

In a lot of cases they follow through with with a large portion of their services and are there on your wedding day doing the job you paid for, but then months or even years will pass and you won’t get your final product from them whether that be photos, a film, or something else.  In milder cases, they’ll have possibly legitimate excuses (like their health or a family situation) for why they haven’t delivered on their promises, but in more severe cases they’ll completely ghost you leaving you in a situation where you can’t even find a last minute vendor replacement like you often can if you get scammed by a more traditional scammer, since you only find out you've been scammed after your wedding is over.

 

Hopefully just knowing how wedding scams work will help you avoid them in the first place, but to make sure you don’t fall for any of them, here are 7 key strategies to use to verify the legitimacy and reliability of any wedding vendor business.

 

 

1.  Talk to them on the phone.  

 

Most scammers want to make quick and easy money, so they won’t want to take the time and effort necessary to get on a call with you.  They’ll probably want to stick to email communication for the most part.  This will be especially true if they are a business impersonation scammer, since their voice most likely won’t match the person they are trying to impersonate.  However, be aware that just because you got them on the phone doesn’t mean they are not a scammer.  Use this phone call to ask specific questions about what they do.  If you get the feeling that they don't know a lot about their industry, it's very likely that they're a scammer.  Another great question to ask them is, "what are your recommendations for other vendors in the area?".  For example, if you’re talking on the phone with a photographer, ask for their videographer recommendations.  If they can’t think of any on the spot, that’s a bad sign since a real wedding photographer will probably have worked with a ton of videographers in their career.  Use your intuition in this phone call as well.  If they don’t sound confident in their answers or are just giving off the wrong vibe, that might mean they are trying to scam you. 

 

2.  Stalk their instagram.  

 

Instagram is a super important part of marketing for most wedding vendors, so the first red flag is that they don’t have an instagram, or their profile doesn’t have many posts.  

 

The next thing to check is the dates of the posts.  If most of the posts were made on the same day, it’s likely a scammer using another vendor’s photos to create their own instagram profile.  You should also look to see if there are recent posts, and if you can, find out how long ago all the weddings they are posting about were.  If you start noticing that there is no content from weddings in the most recent wedding season, this can be a sign of a negligent vendor.

 

Then, make sure that they are tagging relevant people and business.  If none of the posts tag the couple whose wedding is shown, or any other vendors that seem legitimate, it’s probably an impersonation account.  

 

Finally, check out the comments.  The biggest thing to look for that will tell you that the profile is legitimate is the couple’s comments on posts related to their wedding as well as the other vendors at the wedding. 

 

3.  Make sure it isn’t an impersonation website.  

 

My photographer friend had her entire website and business name impersonated by someone else who collected a booking deposit from couples, and then never showed up to the wedding.  These scams can be tough to notice, because there is a real legitimate business with the same name, you just might be talking to a fake version of them. There are a couple of different ways to find out if it’s an impersonation website.  First, just google the business name to see if multiple different website URL’s pop up for the same business name.  If you notice more than one website, and they have different contact details, at least one of them is probably fake.  Next, search for the vendor on instagram, and after using the tips in the previous step to make sure the instagram profile is legit, click on their bio link to see if it takes you to the same website.  The website the instagram profile is linked to is most likely to be legit, as long as you followed the steps to make sure the instagram profile was legit.

 

Finally, contact them and ask them to talk on the phone, like we talked about at the beginning.

 

4. Ask other vendors if they’ve heard of or worked with this vendor.

 

This won’t help you with impersonation scams, but if none of your other vendors have heard of this vendor, it really can mean only two things.  1, they are new to the market, or 2, they are a scam.

 

Other vendors may also be able to warn you of negligent vendors.  Word gets around quickly in the wedding community, so chances are if they’ve heard about the vendor, they can probably tell you what their reputation is.

 

5. High pressure sales tactics are a red flag.

 

Obviously most vendors want to work with you and will try their best to convince you to book them, but a true professional understands that you’ll probably need a few days to come to a decision.  A scammer on the other hand wants your money as soon as possible, because the longer you think about it, the more likely you are to find out that it’s a scam. Stand your ground and watch out things like them telling you the price will go up or discount will no longer be valid after the call, or after a short time period like the end of the day.  Don’t feel bad turning down these kinds of offers, because even if they end up being legit, you probably don’t want to work with someone who operates their business like that anyways.

 

6. Look for negligence. 

 

Negligent vendors are some of the toughest scams to recognize. There’s a good chance that you won’t have a second thought about them until months after your wedding. Even though it’s tougher to recognize, here’s a pretty solid strategy to follow.  

 

Check out their Instagram, but specifically look at their most recent posts. What you want to look for is the time between someone’s actual wedding date and when the vendor posted the first photos or videos that are not a sneak peek. Obviously this depends on the vendor’s policy, but this typically ranges from a few weeks to about 6 months. Also, make sure their most recent posts are from weddings in the most recent wedding season. If the posts are all from weddings a year and a half ago, this isn’t a great sign. Keep in mind that vendors can busy and not have time to always keep up their Instagram, but a significant lack of new content that lasts longer than 6-9 months means they’re either not booking new weddings, or have stopped working on the weddings they have already booked.  If you're still unsure, just message a few brides that the vendor tagged in their posts and ask how their experience was.  This is a great way to get an unfiltered review about any vendor, and they'll certainly tell you if they feel like they've been scammed.

7. Hire a Wedding Planner 

 

I understand that not everyone has the budget to hire a wedding planner, but if it's financially attainable for you, I would highly recommend it for a number of reasons, one of which is to avoid scams.  Planners know so many vendors in the area and can recommend the best ones who they know will do a fantastic job every time.  Even if you decide to select your own vendors that aren't on their preferred vendor list, they'll probably be able to tell you about that specific vendor and confirm whether or not it's not a scam for you.

 

Bonus tip.  Stay in contact with your vendors after you book them.

 

Obviously it’s a bad day when you find out that you’ve booked a scam as one of your wedding vendors, but the day is way worse when it’s the day of your wedding.  This happened to one of my recent clients.  They found out that the company they had booked to do their decor and florals was a scam the evening before the wedding.  This left them in a really bad situation because there wasn’t even time to find another vendor before the wedding.

 

To save yourself from that situation I would encourage you to contact all of your vendors a few days to a few weeks after you book them.  A scammer has no incentive to respond if they've already collected the deposit, so the first contact attempt you make after booking is typically when you find it was a scam.  If you're not sure how to approach it, just send a text or email with a simple question.  A legitimate vendor should answer your questions within a reasonable amount of time.

I'd also recommend connecting with each of your vendors about 1-2 months before your wedding.  Ask if they are able to meet to discuss the details of the wedding day and some questions that you have. An in person meeting is great, but a zoom meeting is also fine.  Meeting up in person or on a zoom call a few months before the wedding will give you a ton of peace of mind that they aren't trying to scam you, and it's also just a great practice to make sure all your vendors are on the same page as you about all the details. 

 

What's Next?

 

As your videographer and/or photographer I take the responsibility of capturing your wedding very seriously. My worst nightmare is somehow forgetting someone's wedding date, despite having it written down with alerts and alarms in literally 3-5 different places, so it really makes me mad when I hear that there are people out there taking advantage of couples on the most important day of their life just to make a quick buck.  

If you do choose me as one of your vendors, I'm always happy to be someone you can bounce vendor names off of or ask for recommendations.  Being in the industry, I know a ton of really great people and business in the Spokane WA area who feel the same level of responsibility about serving wedding clients that I do, and I'd be happy to connect you with that network so you can have confidence that your wedding day will go a smoothly as possible.

Hey, I'm Noah.

I'm a videographer and photographer in the Spokane WA area.  My philosophy is to capture things candidly in a timeless style that will last for generations.  The goal is to bring you back to the way you felt on your wedding day, because as any married couple will tell you, marriage can be hard and sometimes you need to be reminded why you chose them in the first place.

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