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Scam-Free Proms Are Possible if You Do This

In preparation for your teen's all-important night, try these smart tips for safe, reliable purchases online and anywhere

The high school prom is not only a highly anticipated event — it’s also a rite of passage for American teens, an unofficial segue to adulthood.

The modern prom isn’t cheap, not by any stretch.

It’s an exercise in excess in every way, in fact, as in plunging necklines, metallic Balenciaga sneakers that retail for nearly $500, and even a red-carpet walk, where prom guests get to show off their often custom-made finery before the formal dance.

A 2017 survey on all things “prom” revealed that teens in the northeastern part of the country plunk down nearly $700, on average, for such prom-night trappings as formal attire, limos, and high-end restaurants — outspending peers in other regions of the country.

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Midwest promgoers, for example, spend about 13 percent less or about $610, for the special event, according to the Yahoo survey.

And across all regions of the country, the majority of students say they favor dress codes at proms. Not surprisingly to some, perhaps, that sentiment is highest for teens in the Midwest, where 71 percent of students agreed with enforcing a prom dress code. The survey is based on a sample of 1,700 respondents.

For parents and teens alike — in the heartland, on the coasts, and in major cities in between — it’s easy to get caught up in the endless swirl of prom-related minutiae.

Still, it’s also important to beware of the ongoing scams — especially online — pertaining to formal attire, transportation, cosmetics, photography, and even floral items, such as corsages for the young lady and boutonnieres for the young man.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that problems can range from receiving a gown that looks nothing like the picture on the company’s website — to being duped by offerings of free cosmetics on social media.

Related: Teens and Social Media: Time to Dial It Down

“I made the mistake of ordering my prom dress online several years ago,” one 20-something woman from Renton, Washington, told LifeZette. “There were seams coming apart, the ‘tulle’ was some kind of fishnet I really think came from an actual fishing net, and the color was so wrong it wasn’t funny. I had to spend hundreds more — or my mom did, to be exact — and the dresses were very picked-over by that time. It kind of ruined the night.”

Related: Most Thoughtful ‘Promposal’ Ever

For best results on online prom purchases, consult the BBB’s guide on how to shop smartly online.

Meanwhile, here are a few good tips from the BBB:

  • Beware of deals that seem too good to be true
  • Make sure the website you buy from has a secure web address (URL) that begins with “https:// “
  • Always read the fine print
  • Shop online with credit cards only; debit cards, prepaid cards, or gift cards don’t offer the same protection against fraudulent transactions
  • Protect personal information by reading a company’s privacy policy and understanding what personal information is being requested and how it will be used; steer clear of a company altogether if it doesn’t contain a privacy policy on its website

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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