Don’t let your dream day turn into a nightmare! As wedding season
gets closer, we are here to warn you about five wedding-related scams that
target both people planning weddings and businesses providing services:
#1 Fake photographer: Scammers offer what appear to be professional photography services through websites with stolen or stock images. They ask for payment up front and then disappear with your money.
Here’s how to avoid this scam:
Research businesses BEFORE hiring them—ask friends for recommendations and look for online reviews.
Ask the photographer for references and call them.
Ask the photographer to sign a contract before providing a deposit.
NEVER wire money to someone you’ve never met!
#2 Online wedding dress: Scammers create rip-off websites offering steep discounts on designer dresses. You pay for the dress, never receive the order, and can’t get in touch with the sellers. Then the website disappears from the internet.
Here’s how to avoid this scam:
Search online forums for reviews of the seller and the website.
Check the dress designer’s website to see if the seller is listed as an authorized dealer.
Comparison shop. Check prices with multiple sellers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers target wedding vendors too!
#3 Fake order of goods/services:
Your business is contacted by a “client” who wants you to perform a service or
provide goods for their wedding. (This scam typically targets florists,
musicians, bakers, and event planners.) You receive a check for more than the
agreed upon amount. Your “client” then advises you to deposit the check and send
the difference to another vendor by wire transfer. Later, the check bounces and
you’re out any money that’s been transferred.
Here’s how to avoid this scam:
Do not cash the check.
Never send money to an unknown party and cease all communication with the scammer immediately.
Be cautious of clients sending you more money than you’ve agreed to. This is a sign of a scam!
#4 Justice of
the Peace scam: Your information is published online as a Justice of the
Peace (JP). You are contacted by a “couple” who wants you to perform their
marriage ceremony. The scam involves a fake check well over the amount for
marriage ceremony services and
a request to send the excess to another ceremony vendor.
In one report recently received by the Attorney General’s Office, a JP was
mailed a fake check in the amount of $1800 and
instructed to send the majority to a videographer.
Here’s how to avoid this scam:
Do not cash the check.
Never send money to an unknown party and to cease all
communication with the scammer immediately.
#5 Wedding Expo
scam: A scam website claims a big
wedding expo is coming to town. There is a registration fee for vendors with
promises of a great location and exposure. The “event organizers” require
payment in advance and you later find out that the expo doesn’t exist.
Here’s how to avoid this scam:
Contact the venue the expo is claiming to be held at.
Check the event organizer’s references.
Connect with other vendors to see if they have any information.
Vermonter consumers and businesses who have fallen victim to
any of these scams should contact the Consumer Assistance Program right away at
Now that you know what scams to be aware of, here’s information
about obtaining wedding licenses for people getting married in Vermont. Happy
This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.
Driven by her “love for community in every sense of the word,” our March Vermonter of the Month, Monique Priestley, founded The Space On Main in 2017 as a nonprofit community-based coworking, maker, conference, event, and gallery space in the heart of rural Bradford, Vermont.
Monique grew up on a back road in Piermont, New Hampshire,
just over the river from Bradford. From a young age, her parents fostered a
love of the arts, learning, hard work, and volunteerism. Monique says that as
far back as she can remember, her mom always volunteered in the community and
brought her and her sister along to help. In her view, the community was always
there to help them in return. Because of this, Monique believes there is
strength, energy, and hope in community.
As a teen, Monique moved across the Connecticut River to
Bradford. She went on to graduate from Northern Vermont University – Lyndon and
then the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media
program. After completing graduate school in Seattle, Monique returned to
Bradford and bought a house. Since then she has served on numerous boards,
committees, and commissions, and was recently recognized as the Cohase Chamber
of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year.
Today, Monique continues to demonstrate her dedication to
community by founding The Space as a way of fostering entrepreneurship,
collaboration, creativity, and innovation in the Vermont/New Hampshire Cohase
We recently had the pleasure of touring The
Space and learning more about the work Monique is doing and what drives her
passion for community:
How did you come to
understand the need in your community for a space like this? What made you
start this program in a rural place like Bradford, Vermont?
I am involved in quite a few local community groups and
nonprofits. Before working on The Space On Main (also referred to as The
Space), there weren’t many meetings that happened without someone asking,
“How do we engage the young professionals here?” I was always the
youngest person in any room (often by a few decades) so this question was often
directed at me. At the same time, several of Bradford’s most beloved businesses
had closed or moved and there was palpable desperation in the air. I started
wondering whether I should move back to Seattle (I went to grad school at
University of Washington and work remotely for a company there).
At one particularly hard meeting, a mentor and friend of
mine asked me to share an idea I had only told a handful of people. I wanted to
create a space where people could gather to work, create, teach, and learn
side-by-side. I knew there were people who wanted to engage with the community
but did not really need or know how to. I wanted to bring them together.
That meeting turned into an instant buzz of ideas. I went
home, sent out an online survey to gauge community interest, and got 85
responses that weekend. That was a lot for rural Vermont. I started meeting
with those people one-on-one in their homes, in coffee shops, in their studios,
at their offices – figuring out exact needs, desires, prices, challenges, vibe,
What is something
that has been a welcome discovery? What is something that has been a challenge?
I am inspired every single day by the people who reach out
to find out more about The Space, but more importantly, they reach out to find
out how they can become an active member of their communities. They just need
someone to listen to their story, to their ideas, and to help talk through the
questions that are holding them back. It energizes me, it helps awaken
something in them, and it makes me appreciate humanity.
In terms of challenges, the whole process has been one big
series of challenges. I did not know the first thing about most of the tasks I
needed to complete. Luckily, I have always been a lover of problem-solving,
unquenchably curious, resourceful, and stubborn.
What has been the
Honestly, mixed. There are people who understood what The Space was from the beginning and have been amazing – and who really made the entire thing possible by providing guidance, funding, and support. There are people who come in, sit down, and talk through what The Space can mean for them. There are the people who do not understand The Space – or really even the spark that happens when people from diverse backgrounds interact with each other. Then there are the people who just have not heard of it yet. The first few keep me going. The latter few present opportunities to practice marketing and storytelling skills.
You’ve said that
about 2,300 people have been to The Space on Main since it opened. Are you
drawing just from Bradford or surrounding areas? How do you get the word out?
We are definitely drawing from Bradford and the surrounding
areas. We have regular members and attendees from up to 45 minutes away on both
sides of the Connecticut River. We have had quite a few people stop in that are
visiting family or friends. We have requests from people who want to be members
while their kids attend local summer camps. We have had a few people become
members for a few days at a time while they scope out housing in the Upper
Valley. And our Event Space and Conference Room are being booked all the time
by local nonprofits and businesses that need a place to hold meetings, classes,
We have mostly focused on social media, Vital Communities
listservs, and Google. Features on television networks, in Seven Days, and in
local papers have really helped. Word of mouth is the biggest driver. We plan
to put more of a focus on print advertising.
What are some lessons
you’ve learned about starting a small business? Do you have any advice for
other Vermonters starting this?
Have patience, appreciation for timing, and listen to
everyone and everything. There have been so many moments when I just could not
get through to resources that I was advised to pursue. That was frustrating at
first, but then I realized that opportunities to connect were presented to me
later, in drastically better circumstances. At this point, it happens so much
that it is entertaining to see how someone, or something will end up circling
I think my advice would be to be open to any and all ideas
and connections. I say yes, to a lot of things that seem pretty random – a
person I should talk to, an idea someone wants to brainstorm, an event someone
wants to go to, an article I need to read, but I never walk away from anything
without having learned something from it. Those lessons increase my awareness
for later discoveries and connections.
You are located right
on Main Street in downtown Bradford. Are you working on bringing any other new
businesses like yours to the downtown? Any long-term goals for The Space?
The cool thing about The Space and being personally engaged
is that people reach out all the time with business or community ideas they
need help with. As I connect with various people and organizations, it broadens
the resources I can help point others towards.
Along with growing membership and rentals to sustain the
nonprofit, our goal right now is to develop and fund programming that can
provide support and opportunities to remote workers, entrepreneurs, small
businesses, and community members. We are also working on funding for equipment
that will expand the types of programming that can be offered. We have ideas
for using the third floor of the building and have been asked about potential
satellites, both of which are longer term goals.
For right now, we are pretty excited for the number of people we have been able to serve in the first five months and cannot wait to see how The Space adapts and evolves over the coming year.
To wrap-up National Consumer Protection Week, we are shining a spotlight on our community partner Vermont 2-1-1, a health and human service helpline offering information and referrals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Vermont 2-1-1 is a program of the United Ways of Vermont that connects Vermonters to the local agencies, organizations, services and resources they need. Vermont 2-1-1 can help people find resources for basic needs, mental health and substance abuse services, criminal justice and legal services, health care, income support, and more.
Anyone can access Vermont 2-1-1’s confidential and free services by dialing 2-1-1 from anywhere in the state, texting your zip code to 898211 (Monday – Friday from 8AM-8PM), or using their online community resource directory.
Thank you, 2-1-1, for all that you do for Vermonters! Here’s
more information on other community referrals for common consumer problems:
Call Legal Services Vermont
at 800-889-2047. An intake specialist will get basic information about you
and your legal problem. If they can help you with your legal issue, you will be
referred to a paralegal or lawyer at Legal Services Vermont or Vermont Legal
Aid. Their services are free. You can also visit their legal help website for
Contact the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation’s Banking Division. The Banking Division regulates a variety of entities including banks, lenders, and mortgage brokers. To get help with filing a complaint, call 888-568-4547 or file a complaint online.
complaint with a public utility like a phone or internet provider?
Businesses can be consumers too! Vermont is unique in that our Consumer Protection Act defines “consumer” to include businesses that are the consumer in a transaction, such as when purchasing goods or services that are not for resale (9 V.S.A. § 2451a(a)). If your business needs help, contact our Small Business Advocate by emailing AGO.SmallBusiness@vermont.gov or calling 800-649-2424.
Here are some recent
examples of how the Small Business Advocate has helped Vermont business
Small business paid a listing service for over 5
years of online advertising when it realized that advertiser had published the
wrong phone number for the small business. The listing service offered to
refund the small business $450 to resolve the issue, but this was significantly
less than what the small business had paid for the service. Our Small Business
Advocate reached out to the listing service on the small business’ behalf and
was able to secure a refund of more than $4,000 to recapture the costs paid for the service.
Small business attempted to cancel their lease for credit card processing equipment (the lease was entered before new protections took effect on July 1, 2018), but the leasing company claimed that the small business owner was unable to cancel the lease agreement and needed to pay the remainder of the lease term. Our Small Business Advocate reviewed the lease contract and found that it did not conform to Vermont’s Home Solicitation Sales Act (9 V.S.A. § 2454). The leasing company agreed to cancel the contract, saving the business owner more than $600 over the course of the lease.
Small business signed up for a lead generator
service but was dissatisfied with the quality of the referrals they received.
Small business requested a refund but did not receive a response from the lead
generator. Frustrated by the lack of response, they contacted our Small
Business Advocate who brought the complaint to the lead generator’s attention
and facilitated a refund to the small business of nearly $300.
Does your business
need help? Review our office’s webpage for
small businesses and contact our Small Business Advocate today.
Debt can be a major source of stress and financial strain. In fact, the average Vermonter has nearly $10,000 in credit card debt, according to the Burlington Free Press. For National Consumer Protection Week, we’re sharing important information about debt settlement programs.
There are free services that can help you settle your debt. You can find some resources at VTLawHelp.org.
Additionally, you can work directly with your creditors to negotiate a debt settlement without using a third party. The CFPB has great step-by-step information about how to do this here. There are also nonprofit debt settlement services you use instead of using private, for-profit companies that can come with risks. Local Community Action Agencies are a great resource for free advice too.
Be careful in dealing with for-profit debt adjusters
If you choose to use a for-profit debt settlement option, it’s important that you use caution. These private, for-profit businesses may offer to settle your debts for less than what you owe by working directly with creditors.
“You should be aware that “creditors have no obligation to agree to negotiate a settlement of the amount you owe. There is a chance that your debt settlement company will not be able to settle some of your debts — even if you set aside the monthly amounts the program requires.
“Debt settlement companies also often try to negotiate smaller debts first, leaving interest and fees on large debts to grow.”
Because “debt settlement programs often ask — or encourage — you to stop sending payments directly to your creditors, they may have a negative impact on your credit report and other consequences.”
There are many debt settlement scams out there. Any company offering debt settlement or debt adjustment services in our state must be licensed with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. You can check a license online by searching the business name on nmlsconsumeraccess.org.