Preparations for prom season 2018 have already begun. Visit any local boutique and you’ll see the latest prom collections hanging beautifully on display, ready for teens to visit and make that all-important fashion choice. However, more and more teenage girls are ending up sadly disappointed by their purchases. Prom shopping has become a potential minefield as more counterfeit and cheap knock-off versions of dresses flood the online market. Teens can easily be lured into purchasing a fake or low-quality dress, especially because of their frequent use of social media. Instagram may be one source that should be held more accountable for what’s marketed and for sale through their social network. Many teenage girls are using Instagram to browse for prom dresses 2020 and style inspiration for their big night. While this is a great place to look for ideas and can be a helpful resource, it can also lead them in the wrong direction. There are many unauthorized accounts that post genuine retailer photos, add a link to their Paypal account for ‘easy’ payment, only to ship out counterfeit or knock-off versions of the dresses photographed. This is also often replicated on other fake prom dress websites and on auction sites such as eBay. While you may be potentially purchasing an authentic prom dress brand, there are many loopholes that sellers are exploiting, such as misspelling brand names intentionally or wording their auctions to misconstrue what the real product is. They can simply steal genuine photos and pass them off as their own. Teenagers shopping online are already vulnerable enough when shopping for clothing through verified brand websites, but purchasing a prom dress has made the security risk and the potential for disappointment even higher. Teenagers are being directly hit by online scammers aiming to make a quick buck with minimal consequences. During the 2017 prom season, this resulted in a wave of prom dress photos going viral, after teenage girls posted the dresses they received in the mail following online purchases. The dresses they unpacked were a far cry from what was presented to them online. Many had a flattering and unusual fit, or clearly lacked the same level of detailing, or were composed of cheaper fabrics. While these dresses may have made for some amusing photos when tried on, the reality is that many girls and their parents are sadly wasting their dress budget on a gown that simply isn’t what they paid for. They often have little recourse after their purchase is made and very little chance of getting their money returned. There are, thankfully, a few ways you can avoid falling into this trap while making any prom dress purchase online. You do not have to feel restricted by the potential purchase of a counterfeit, but simply choose to monitor and check purchases with caution beforehand. One of the best ways to do this is to check with any legitimate, leading brand’s website. They will often list their official retailers, including online stores and local boutiques. This gives you the security you need to ensure that the site or store listed is authorized to sell this brand’s products, in this case, prom dresses. If you don’t see your chosen store listed, simply do not go ahead with the purchase. You can e-mail the brand to confirm first. While technology may be allowing some counterfeit sellers to take advantage and slip through the net unscathed, it is also helping to combat the problem. Jovani Fashions is one designer brand who have innovated a new technique to ensure all dresses are authentic. They offer several forms of verification for potential buyers to double check their dresses before and after purchase. This includes issuing each official boutique with a unique JAC ID that can be entered on their website for verification. This ID is displayed in store on a plaque for easy visual confirmation. Furthermore, through their official app, they allow users to enter their garment’s barcode to cross reference with their authentic product list. There are also steps you can take if you have already purchased a counterfeit dress. If you can report the website (to Google and/or your local authority), you are at least taking some steps towards helping with the clampdown on such tech savvy thieves. Be wary that all social media sites and even their paid advertisements can be redirected to websites that sell unauthorized fake prom dresses. If you see a beautiful dress on Facebook or other social media, simply check for the brand name and visit their official site. Some simple research can save you from purchasing a counterfeit, as not every advertisement or sponsored post is a direct link to the legitimate brand. Price can be an indicator too. If a website is selling brand name dresses that appear to be too ‘cheap’, there may be a simple reason for this – they are not authentic. Even if photographs of the label are featured, these may be images stolen from the brand, or indeed, even a fake label. The only way to be certain that you’re making a legitimate purchase is to always check that the site is verified with the brand itself, or that you are shopping on the brand’s own website. The problem is not just exclusive to the online world. There are many physical stores and boutiques who are purchasing poor quality knock-off dresses to sell in their stores. The quality is often the first give away sign. If you try on a dress, you may notice it is ill-fitting or demonstrating poor craftsmanship. You will not see any plaques or certificates from legitimate brands within the store itself, nor will it be listed as a retailer for any recognizable brand online. For any prom dress shoppers who are excited to begin their search for that perfect gown, do not be put off. Enjoy the experience while remaining vigilant when making your final purchase. Be sure you have in some way verified or trust the source of your purchase, and then simply enjoy your own princess moment.