The first thing to remember is, that if you have fell for this, you are not stupid, it is not your fault and you should not feel ashamed. The people who are out to rip you off for your hard earned cash are professionals, they know what they are doing and they know how to get to you.
When you are planning a wedding, it is very easy to become ‘irrationally passionate’ about it and let your excitement for your big day cloud your judgement and these people know this. You are considered easy pray and as you all hang out in the same groups on facebook, you are very easy targets.
I have been in business online since 2005 and, for 12 years, this was alongside a bricks and mortar florist and venue dressing shop. During this time I foiled many a scammer and was quite proud of the amount of times people had targeted me and I had managed to stop them in their tracks. I considered myself an expert at sifting out the scammer from the genuine trader or customer. I even confronted them on more than one occasion (I am not recommending this course of action by the way, but I am kinda known for my straight talking and no nonsense approach).
Anyway, my point to this ramble is that only last week, after all this experience, I myself was scammed. I basically let my emotions cloud my better judgement. My daughter had gone through a particularly bad few months and was desperate to go to a particular gig that all her friends were going.. I was desperate to see her smiling again so I did everything to get the tickets for her, including buying them online from someone on twitter. Every fibre of my being was screaming inside, ‘don’t do it’, but because I was feeling ‘irrationally passionate’ given my daughter’s circumstances, I bought them. Fast forward to three weeks later, I have a teenage daughter on the phone telling me she could not get into the MEN with the fake e tickets we had bought. Anyway, after a 3 hour round trip in Manchester rush hour traffic, a trip to the cash point and a haggle with a tout (I’m pretty good at that too FYI), she got into the gig and all was well in the world. Fast forward to this week and we now have the money on its way back to us as I had the good sense to at least pay via goods and services.
Now, here is a rather good tip. When I claimed, I did not say she was a fake because that would have been difficult to prove. I said that I had not received tickets she promised to post. I knew that they would ask her for tracking information that she simply could not provide. And, I was right and the £80 will very soon be back in my account. I still consider myself scammed as I should never have fell for it, but as experienced as I am in the ‘online world’, I was still vulnerable too.
Anyway, today I once again spotted a scammer and highlighted her in a facebook group. She was claiming to sell off her wedding bits and pieces and when I looked, it screamed scam. She had posted a few sad stories, (ALARM BELLS), none of her pictures matched each other and she was foolish enough to have another brides name on some of the stationery. The admins and crew have now got things in hand thankfully and most people on that group are aware of her. I must say a particular thanks to Janet who has been in touch personally with people who were scammed by her and is helping them claim which I think is really admirable.
It did prompt me to write this blog though and highlight the things I think matter when buying from someone online. Now, I am not claiming to be some kind of guru but it is a starting point. They are not foolproof…. and I am asking people to read this blog and comment if they have any ideas to add at the bottom. The more hints and tips the better as far as I am concerned. Hopefully I can get some group admins to share this to their pages and we can help spread the word amongst brides to be and friends.
1. How old is their profile? If it is brand new, alarm bells should be ringing. Also, if this person is claiming to be a bride who wants to sell her stuff, her profile picture should give her away. 9/10 new brides I know have a picture of them in a wedding dress from their big day as their profile picture and rightly so! Check the URL at the top (that is the bar at the top of the page), in this it should include their name and if they have changed their name this can scream dodgy too.
2. Check the pictures they have posted. There are a few things you can do. Firstly, do a google reverse image search. This is not always possible but if you click on the picture and then right click and do a google search, you will see if it is on the web anywhere else. They very often steal others pics. The second thing to look for is cohesiveness. If they are selling from their home, all pics will be in the same house. If they are selling dresses or flowers, they should all match. The stationery will match the flowers and the dresses etc.. Hey but you all know about themes so just keep an eye out for this. One person actually suggested getting them to take a picture with todays date on a piece of paper next to the items they are selling. I think this is a great advice if I’m honest.
3. Do a double check on the wedding scammers facebook page. The link is below. If you cannot find their exact profile, ask the admins to check them out. I have recently spoken to one of the admins, Janet who is extremely committed to stopping these people in their tracks and I know she would help you out. She is also a fab artificial florist.. hey she deserves a plug for all the hard work she does behind the scenes :). She is part of a great team of people who I think actually deserve a cyber round of applause to be honest as they are really putting in the graft to make sure you are not getting scammed under their nose. Paula, Peter, Sara, Michelle, Angela, Barbara, Angela and Vanessa form this great team and I am sure they will be willing to help you out if you are at all suspicious of someone.
4. Don’t forget you can also post in any of the bridal groups and ask someone to check them out for you and give you a second opinion. Two brains are, after all better than one.
Good quality suppliers will not be dirt cheap. Scammers know that a great price point is a great hook for a bride to be. Now, I am not saying that everyone cheap is scamming you, as this is a viable business model but it is a method that scammers use.
History / Authenticity
Some suppliers solely work from facebook and I cannot stress enough how this is FINE!! I know some fabulous business who have built great business on facebook. However, there are some things that set them apart from scammers and there are some things you can look out for. On a legit business you should see some reviews, some customer posts, some longevity, regular posts from the business owner, cohesive pictures. Posts will generally be over a period of time. Their pictures will usually be cohesive, even if they work from home, the pictures will be from the same house or they will have a favourite spot they like to take their pics. This sounds vague but pictures should have a cohesive feel about them, you’ll know when you see it.
Another tip is to google their business and see what pops up. They very often will have some history that comes up. Try googling ‘The Sarky Cow’, to see the bits and pieces that come up for my business. This has only been going for two years but has built up some google history.
Check other social media accounts. Instagram and twitter are the favourites after facebook but there are others such as linked in. You should get a further feel for if they are genuine. Another way to check at least.
Other Selling Platforms
A lot of business’ don’t just operate from facebook and have other platforms that they have put their time and effort into. Some business, including mine, have Etsy shops and Amazon shops and their own website. This to me, shows that time and money have been invested into their business and they are willing to abide by an official platforms’ rules giving the customers confidence to buy knowing they will be safe.
Now, I am not saying that every business has to have every selling and marketing option mentioned. I barely use facebook for my business and don’t use it personally so people could be suspicious of that (I am really rubbish at social media for business – someone please teach me haha), however, they would find reassurance with my website, amazon shop and etsy shop and the subsequent reviews. Others may not have this but may have a great facebook page with lots of reassurance from real customers that have used them.
My major advice is, if in doubt ASK ASK ASK.. message me personally if you have to at my facebook page below and I will be happy to check out a page for you. Join the page above where Janet is an admin and just be aware that not everyone is genuine.
And, once you decide that the person you are buying from, if paying via paypal, insist on goods and services. Legitimate business may ask for bank transfers and there is actually nothing wrong with this, I myself accept that method of payment but I would first check that they are actually trading legally and have more than just a facebook presence before doing this.
I hope this helps and if you are reading and have some advice to offer, please leave it below.