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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, March 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

BBB Tip of the Week: Shop carefully to avoid prom-purchase scams

By Lauren Hall Marketplace Manager

Prom can be among the more expensive nights of the year for students (and their parents). Before teenagers dance the night away, families need a checklist to prepare for a scam-free evening. Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific warns families to beware of a variety of prom scams, especially when purchasing items online.

Formal wear, flowers, photography, transportation, hair and makeup are just some prom-night expenses. The latest social media trend is the elaborate “promposal,” in which students go to great lengths to ask their dates to prom. When setting up promposals and other elements of a perfect night, BBB urges consumers to shop carefully. Be especially aware of ads on social media for goods and services.

BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of consumers never receiving items, receiving additional unauthorized charges to their credit cards or receiving poor-quality merchandise. Always start your purchases and hiring by reading Business Profiles at and consider going with a BBB Accredited Business.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid prom scams this season.

Formal Attire: Be on the lookout for fake websites selling prom dresses. Problems can range from receiving a dress that looks nothing like the pictures on the site to not receiving anything at all. If the site is legitimate and secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.

Transportation: Costs for limousines and party buses can vary from $65 to $400 per hour depending on the type of vehicle and number of passengers. Check BBB Business Profiles to make sure the company and the driver are properly licensed for commercial transportation. Will the driver be paid by the hour or for the evening? Are there any limits on the mileage for the ride? Be sure to get everything in writing and double-check all details.

Cosmetics: Stay clear of offers for free trials or samples, especially when advertised on social media sites. Ads may seem official, but scammers can easily make websites and advertisements look like they are for popular brands.

Floral Arrangements: Visit your local florist or research on to find a trustworthy business to create quality boutonnieres and corsages. Compare prices to see if that “Prom Special” is really a deal.

Photography: Professional photographers can capture a special moment, but it can be expensive. Be sure to read the fine print for any photography packages and understand exactly what you are getting. Pay attention to anything that could change the cost after the event, i.e., getting the photos printed vs. downloading them.

Splitting the costs with friends: There are many new sites and apps to make it easier to transfer money between friends. Research them carefully before connecting them to your bank accounts. If you are using one to pay a business, make sure you check the policy regarding what happens if there is a problem with your purchase. You have more security against fraud or problems if you use a credit card for your purchase.

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