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5 Ways to Spot a Pinterest Scam: Brides and Budget Shoppers, Beware

Pinterest is more than just a place to share pictures of tempting dishes and home improvement projects; it’s a breeding ground for scammers who especially love to prey on the pinners in the high traffic wedding section.

Scammers see the Pinterest wedding boards as an opportunity to lure in budget brides (or even those who don’t have a ring on it) with promises of expensive designer dresses at hundreds or even thousands less than boutique prices.

What’s *really* important is whether or not these earrings can be worn with an updo at the reception.

But you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true…

Sites like Fish In the Sky, 9Lover, Milanoo, Wedding Dress Bee, and Dream Prom (among countless others) have hundreds of dresses pinned on fake accounts, which are then picked up by real account holders and repeatedly repined be real pinners, masking their origin.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find dozens of complaint boards chock full of incidents of poor quality dresses, refusal to refund money, and outright lack of product delivery.

The dresses are gorgeous. The prices are fantastic. The website looks well-made. How are you supposed to know when you’re getting a deal and when you’re getting conned?

Good for ad copy, bad for personal wedding planning.

Look at the pin.

The standard format of a scam pin includes 1) a description of the dress and 2) a generically-named board in lower case letters: wedding dresses, mothers, bridesmaids. Because pins are added in huge chunks, the scammer often cuts and pastes the description and doesn’t add personal information (e.g., “The lace around the middle will totally distract from my huge ass!”).

However, a scam pin may run through several real users who add those comments themselves. Go with your instincts on analyzing individual pins. The take-away here is that if it doesn’t look like a real person pinned it, it’s unlikely that a legitimate company is behind it.

Check out the pinner.

A Pinterest scammer takes other people’s pictures and names. There is rarely personal information listed in bios or pins, because that’s a waste of time. The objective is to get the most pins out into the Pinterest pool to increase the number of back links and hook the maximum number of victims, so personalization is left by the wayside. Pinterest scams are even becoming automated. The scam pinner rarely follows anyone (and is rarely followed), has generic names for the boards, and has tons of pins in the target categories… and nothing else.

To be fair, Isis Sterling sounds like a secret identity, and this whole thing could be bigger than we ever imagined.

Weddingdress as one word is also a tip-off.

Consider the name of the site.

So the pin seems legit, and the user has some other boards and personal information included. What if there’s really a good deal here? Before you whip out your AMEX, consider the name of the site. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but when the site name is bizarre, you might just need to dig a little deeper. For example, how does 9Lover reflect a wedding dress site? What about Wedding Dress Bee? And my personal favorite – Reliabletrust Store.

After too many bad reviews reduce the number of referrals to the site, the scammers simply set up shop elsewhere with basically the same page design and a new name. Think about it: does it look like this name was developed by a marketing team or experienced entrepreneur? Nope, they were available domain names, and they’re often becoming generic enough to thwart attempts to ferret out reputation through Googling. That is, if you don’t know the right trick to get to the bottom of it all…

Consult with Professor Google.

Surely the free speech on the internet would have some information on these potentially sketchy sites, right? Yes… but only if you know how to look for it. If you simply Google a company’s name, you’ll come up with the original website (duh) and product listings from that website. Instead, search for specific keywords along with the site’s name such as “wedding dress bee scam” and “milanoo complaints” in order to find the message boards and blogs of the scammed. Of course, you’ll get results for just about any site this way, but when you see the volume of complaints levied against a particular brand, you’ll think twice about sending over your AMEX number.

Google search: Milanoo

The Google search results for keyword: “Milanoo”

Google search: Milanoo scam

The Google search results for keyword: “Milanoo Scam”

Scam sites have recently started to combat this by sending out press releases dismissing the idea of the company being a scam, which are highlighted in purple on the second image. These are fairly easy to spot, as the language is odd (often the result of a poor translation) and the arguments are FOX News quality: “I highly recommend shopping at Milanoo disregarding all the slanderous ‘Milanoo scam’ articles.” However, they’re popping up more and more in the initial results page, so click past page one.

Responding publicly is a popular strategy for buying time and preserving a brand’s image a little longer.

Find customer reviews on independent sites.

Customer review sites such as Complaints Board and Reseller Ratings present an opportunity for those who’ve been scammed (or got bad service) to present their side; they also post photos of damaged/crappy products, sometimes next to the promised item.

Some of the scam sites have been responding publicly to the reviewers in an effort to maintain a façade of giving a crap. However, the original reviewer never comes back to state that everything was handled well, and it was all a big misunderstanding.

Bonus tips:

  • Always pay by credit card rather than debit card or wire transfer. It’s much easier to dispute a fraudulent credit card charge with your company than try to recoup cash from the other types of transactions.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it is.
  • Be wary of overseas transactions. Other countries are not always bound by the same laws, and even when they are, they’re far more difficult to enforce.
  • If the company has not been in a business a long time, you may be better off waiting to benefit from waiting for reviews to come in.

Now that you have these killer tips for finding Pinterest scammers and will pass them along to anyone you’re worried might get sucked into one of these horrible deals, it should be harder for these companies to make money off the unsuspecting.

But there’s so much more valuable information here than simply keeping yourself protected.

What if you could go on the offensive?

Scam sites reach this level of popularity because they’re doing something right. Why let that great knowledge go to waste? Tune back in next week, where I’ll show you how to take the shady strategies used by these companies and launder them for your own legitimate business plan.

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Have you ever been scammed by a site like the ones mentioned here? Do you frequently see too-good-to-be true deals on Pinterest?



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. Kelsey

    Shady stuff right there! I honestly didn’t even think about how there could be scammers out there on pintrest. Luckily for me, pintrest is just a website for wishful thinking. Reading your post though, it actually seems fairly easy to get a scam like this started.. you’ve for sure made me more aware! If I ever end up turning my wishful thinking into a reality, I will be thanking you for sure! :)

    • Jana Quinn

      Scammers prey on the wistful thinkers especially. They don’t give a crap about those with lots of cash; those people are buying things straight from the designers and not looking for discounts. Those that pin super expensive gowns are likely to get invested and then jump without thinking when they see a super low price. Even those who aren’t actively planning a wedding and don’t intend to buy anything online can propagate the scam by repinning, which makes the friends who follow and trust them potential victims (since YOU’D never do anything to harm them).

      Just be careful out there. :-)

  2. Eric

    Crazy, I mean crazy, to think someone could take something like Pinterest and use it for wrongdoing…worse yet they’re targeting women planning their own weddings (something more and more common in this economy). Luckily I’ve never been scammed on the internet, and hopefully this article here will prevent folks from placing their trust in the wrong hands.

    • Jana Quinn

      Glad to hear you’ve never fallen prey to this kind of crap. Even those who aren’t directly scammed could put their friends in harm’s way by repinning without considering the source. Their repin leads their friends to believe it’s a safe link and hides the origin of the pin. It’s so sad and very avoidable.

  3. Jeff Porretto

    This is just overall excellent info to have, for any industry really. Almost every bargain hunter will run into these situations sooner or later, and learning how to protect yourself is step #1!

    Moral of the story: Don’t do the Fry “Shut up and take my money” thing unless you’ve also done the Fry “Not sure if a scam or just really cheap” thing beforehand!

  4. amy

    This is so crazy, Jana! I had no idea this was such a problem on Pinterest!! I have a personal account, but I haven’t done anything with it in a week or two. I’ll go on a bunch and check stuff out and then won’t visit it again for a month.

    If I do decide to do anything with my pins, I’ll be sure to keep your advice handy! Thanks!!

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, it goes in cycles where the scams will dominate the wedding page and then you’ll go a few days/weeks without seeing very many, and then the scammers adapt and end up just plastering the wedding page again.

      Pinterest is doing its best to adapt, but there’ll always be more scammers working harder to be jerks.

  5. Jill Tooley

    AWESOME resource, Jana! You’ve covered all the bases!

    Pinterest wasn’t a site I frequented when I was wedding dress shopping 2 years ago, but there were still plenty of scams to look out for in basic Google searches. I found several scam sites like these, and all of them advertised the highest quality wedding gowns for ridiculously low prices. I’m a naturally skeptical person, so dozens of red flags popped into my head as I browsed them, and I ended up specifically searching for scams related to those sites… BOOM. The red flags were justified by the hundreds of one-star reviews. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to give up my CC information that easily!

    Scam sites are evolving, though, and sometimes you really have to dig to find out if something’s a scam. It makes me sad for the legitimate companies out there, because the abundance of junk websites makes it harder for brides/grooms to find THEM.

    And as you said, if you see a site advertising a custom-made $2,000 designer gown for $150, it’s probably too good to be true. My advice is to heed the red flags no matter what — I’d much rather be too skeptical than lose hundreds (or thousands) of dollars!

    • Jana Quinn

      I think your strategy of specifically looking up scams related to sites was fantastic. Certainly it leads to confirmation bias (searching for a particular side to the story rather than objective information), but if it leads to a wealth of complaints, there’s only so much the scammers can do to put out those fires. They’re much more likely to pour resources into SEO to make sure the generic keyword phrases don’t have any scam information on the first page of search results. But as I showed in the article, they’re even starting to add their brand name with the word “scam” to try to SEO their way out of that, too.

      I am in favor of net neutrality, but things like this certainly make a strong argument for regulation.

  6. Mandy Kilinskis

    Excellent resource, Jana! It’s crazy to see what some of these scammers can get away with. Even better, the last three steps can be used to sniff out a scam on any site!

    I luckily haven’t run into any of these scams on Pinterest, but I also haven’t been checking out any of the wedding stuff (I seem to be the only single woman without a wedding-themed Pinterest board). In fact, it’s been a really long time since I’ve logged onto Pinterest.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Mandy! I also don’t have a Pinterest wedding board, but we may be the only two unmarried women without one. We should start a club.

      “Scams” are also emerging in other domains like Geek, where people just plaster the main page with tons of Amazon products set up through affiliate accounts. It’s not technically a scam since Amazon is legit, but the boards are being used for unintended and shady purposes.

      CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

  7. Jenna Markowski

    This is a very helpful post, Jana! I’m not on Pinterest, but these types of scams exist everywhere on the internet, so everyone could benefit from your tips. Specifically, ordering everything online with a credit card rather than a debit card is really important. And checking and double-checking via Google if other users have given the site bad reviews is crucial. It’s a shame that sites like this prey on innocent shoppers, but they wouldn’t do it if people didn’t fall for it all the time. People need to be educated about this kind of stuff!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Jenna!

      Good point about the credit card versus debit card approach. Since most scammers won’t just refund money once things go south (because – duh – scammers), you can dispute it with your credit card company directly.

  8. Jen

    This is an interesting blog Jana. I don’t have a Pinterest account myself, but it really doesn’t surprise me that there are so many scammers on the site. I didn’t know that Milanoo was such a shady company. I would never even consider buying my wedding dress online, but I have actually bought a costume from their site. I never even considered the fact that I might not get it, or if I did, it wouldn’t look anything like the garment I intended to purchase. I guess I was lucky that I wasn’t scammed and I got exactly what I ordered, but I will be more wary in my future online purchases. Thanks for the great information!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Jen. I think the reason that the storefront is able to stay in business for those short bursts is because they actually do follow through on some (I don’t know if I could even guess if it’s half or a majority) orders. I’m glad to hear you weren’t scammed, but it sounds like you might be more reluctant to recommend Milanoo to anyone else.

  9. Rachel

    Great post, Jana! Lots of really useful information here, for sure. I was looking through pins of hairdos a few weeks ago and clicked through one of the links, and Pinterest loaded up a page warning that the link had been marked by users as spam. Good to see that Pinterest is trying to address the scamming/spamming issue — and, as you’ve mentioned in the comments, scammers are lurking in more than just the wedding section. :) (Well, I guess hairstyles do fall under the “wedding” umbrella, though that wasn’t on my mind while browsing them.) So this article is full of good advice, no matter where you’re looking on Pinterest!

    Also, you can add me to the club of unmarried women without a wedding pinboard. Though I can’t argue that looking at pretty dresses is fun sometimes. :)

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Rachel!

      I had no idea that Pinterest was adding a page to report certain sites as spam. I know that some of the wedding dress sites – if you click though from the pin – have been asking me simple math problems (2 + 2 = __), so I’m wondering if that’s the scam site’s way of stopping bots that crawl the links and block offending sites. I’m glad to see Pinterest is actively trying to stop this.

      You, Mandy, and I need to start a club.

  10. david k waltz

    Jana,

    I was not aware that Pinterest was such a scammer breeding ground. Great job bringing this to people’s attention.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, David! Pinterest is responding to scam tactics, but the scammers will always be inches ahead. Educating pinners will make greater strides toward improving the safety of using Pinterest rather than relying on software or code to weed things out automatically.

  11. Jamie

    Thanks… I was going to buy from Fish in the Sky and realized they changed their name to Prom dress bee which is weird so I googled scams and this came up. Although I am sad because I now have to pay thousands for a dress and not $199. I am very happy I was not scammed…

    Thanks!

    • Jana Quinn

      Jamie, I’m bummed you didn’t get the deal of your dreams, but I’m also really glad you weren’t scammed! Those dresses are gorgeous, but unfortunately, they’re not what people end up getting. Best of luck in the rest of your search. I’m sure you’ll find something fabulous, even though it might not be at the price you hoped for. Stay safe out there on the scary internet. ;-)

  12. Katie

    Hi Jana,

    Thanks for your article, I was actually googling weddingdressbee.com reviews and stumbled upon this post.

    I just have a question regarding lightinthebox.com; at the top of your post you indicate it is a scam. And while I am not naive enough to think any company is perfect, my experience with lightinthebox.com has been nothing short of great. Both my Mom and Mother in Law ordered their dresses for my wedding from the site and both dresses are beautiful and impeccably made. Both were custom orders and fit to a T. I am wondering where the scam is? Perhaps they were the exception to the rule? I am concerned mostly as they are both planning to order a couple more dresses for wedding events and dinners and now this has me concerned it may not be a good idea? I read many mixed reviews and it seems to me where they fail is with their return policy, is this where the scam is?

    • Jana Quinn

      Hey, there! Sorry about the delay in response; I actually did try to respond but WordPress likes to tell me that I’m posting comments too fast… apparently, once per week is too fast. ;-)

      Here are some of the reasons I consider Light in the Box (and the others named in this article) a scam:

      1) The complaints listed are consistent, indicating that the company knows it’s making the same errors and has decided it’s worth the cost of lost customers/damaged reputation to continue cheating people.

      2) Their response to service errors is consistently the use of delay tactics in order to run out the clock for the returns process.

      3) Light in the Box (and many of these other companies) is located in China, making legal action impossible for customers who have been cheated. There have also been a lot of stories of customs charges being added, which is not mentioned in the orders process.

      4) Review sites have been chock full of negative feedback for this company. However, there are also long swatches of perfect, 5-star reviews. Fishy? Absolutely. There have actually been notices that review sites are researching the possibility (likelihood) that they’re fake.

      http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/newsreviewsinterviews/fr/Review-Of-Light-In-The-Box-Online-Store.htm

      The most likely scenario is that it’s a company that is misrepresenting the quality of its items and the actual price to the consumer of the full transaction. At the slightest sign of trouble, they use delay tactics to avoid

      Do they send out things that are correct? Of course, they would have to have some positive reviews. But the overwhelming consistency of their unprofessional and illegal practices in addition to their lack of accountability to U.S. law makes them a risky gamble.

      I’m happy that your experiences have been fantastic; maybe these negative reviews only represent 0.01% of all purchases… but I’ve read an awful lot of negative feedback, and with an event as important as a wedding, I personally would be more comfortable paying extra for the peace of mind.

      Again, I’m so sorry in the delay response, and I hope this sheds some light on why I consider these companies scams. While they have obviously fulfilled their promises for your orders, the amount of negative feedback found online, the false five star reviews, and the lack of options when it comes to pursuing legal action would make it hard for me to put my trust in this company.

      Hope this helps!

  13. Katie

    Hi Jana,

    Have you had a chance to read my comment yet? I am curious to know what you think and I would appreciate a response.

    Thanks!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, Katie!

      Jana isn’t in our office full-time, but she is aware of your comment and will get back to you tonight! :)

      Thanks for being so interested in the post!

      Mandy

      • Katie

        Thanks, Mandy! I don’t mean to be pushy but I am curious as to what scam lightinthebox.com is guilty of before we spend any more money there :)

        Thanks again.

  14. Cassie

    Another good idea is to use google images. You can search with an image by clicking on the little camera icon in the search bar when you’re on google images and then either upload the picture you want to find or use the URL of the image if it’s online. These kinds of sites generally use the actual pictures from the websites of the real designers, so this way you can find the original source of the image and see how much the real design costs.

    • Jana Quinn

      Great idea – you’ve obviously heard of the phrase “it’s too good to be true!” If a brand new dress is on sale for 10% of its original cost (and it hasn’t been cursed by an evil witch in the woods or something), you know something has to be up.

      Thanks for the tip!

  15. Lisa

    I used light in the box for my wedding dress and everything went extremely well. Do they sometimes do proper orders to create good hype? Was I just lucky ? It is only taffeta fabric which is fine but I really didn’t find anything wrong with it.

    I ask cuz I was thinking of using the same site for my bridesmaids and now I am worried that it was just a fluke.

    Please reply I really need to know.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi there, Lisa!

      Jana isn’t in our office full-time, so I wanted to reach out to you and let you know that your comment was read!

      If you scroll up from this comment, Jana left a lengthy response for another bride-to-be that I believe will answer your question.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave us a comment!

  16. Lauren Riley

    Hi,
    So I saw this article and still decided to order from weddingdresssbee. I knew I was risking half the money I was spending ($400 total, so I stood to lose $200) But my bridesmaids are on a serious budget, and I needed to find them something affordable. Also I would never, ever have bought my wedding dress here, because as expected the bridesmaids dresses did come out slightly different from the pictures. But the quality was actually pretty good, and the fit was done fairly well too. So for me this was a risk I was willing to take and it paid off. I’d say if you are ok with losing a few hundred dollars and coming away with something you might love for less, than this isn’t the worst option. Again only if you can afford it if it goes wrong, and have prepared yourself that what you order may not be perfect.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for sharing your balanced perspective. I think the most important word you used here as “risk.” There’s very little chance of getting money back if anything goes wrong, especially considering many sites require wire transfer for payment. I’m glad it worked out for you!

  17. Justine

    Thank you for posting this article. I am shopping for a Marine Corps Ball gown and was considering Weddingdressbee.com because of all the beautiful dresses I’ve seen on Pinterest. I was searching reviews as I was afraid of it being too good to be true.

    • Jana Quinn

      Unfortunately sites like the ones I’ve listed above use the designer’s photos to show the dresses, but what is received is often a far cry from expectations. I’m glad to hear you didn’t make a purchase you might later regret. Best of luck finding something beautiful for the ball! :)

  18. Tessa

    So, wedding dress bee is NOT a place to buy from then?

  19. Barbara

    DONT waste your money. The dress sent was terribly made but I might use it for a Halloween costume. Look at the first response I got from their customer service when initiating contact with them to request refund. Each day became so comical based on their unethical business practices. They are crooks.

    Hi, thank you for all your pictures. We checked all of them very carefully. All we found is that you are so amazing. It is you who make the dress looked more beautiful and attractive than the model on our website You are so awesome and amazing. Please trust us that the dress on you is very unique and special. So could you please kindly keep the dress? Thank you for your concerning in advance. Have a nice day.

    So next will be filing dispute with my bank and when researching for the charge, I found they charged more to my card than I authorized. That alone should tell you how fraudulent they are and they should be shut down.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us. I’m sorry you’re going through all of this extra nonsense because they weren’t able to follow through on the promises they’ve made.

      Unfortunately with so many of these companies being overseas, it’s difficult to pursue legal action. Best of luck getting everything sorted, and hope you’re able to get some Halloween use out of it! :-)

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