TODAY   |  April 11, 2013

Rossen Reports: Teens scammed with fake prom dresses

As high school students all over the country begin their exhaustive searches for the perfect prom dress, scammers are cashing in on their excitement, selling cheap knockoff designer dresses online, claiming they’re the real deal. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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>>> reports. with prom season approaching, there are scammers out there and they're ruining that big night . today jeff rossen is here with more on that.

>> is nothing sacred anymore? now they're going after prom. we've told you about scammers, of course, selling fake electronics and handbags and the list goes on. now these scammers are targeting the prom, fooling teenage girls with fake designer dresses, charging hundreds of dollars for gowns that literally fall apart right in your hands. before your kids go dress shopping, you have to see what we found.

>> it's prom season, and for the girls, it's all about the dress.

>> prom is the oscars to a high school kid.

>> high-end labels sell for hundreds of dollars. a ton of money for most high school kids and their parents.

>> yeah, i like it.

>> which is why they're always looking for the best deal.

>> is this your dress?

>> now brazen scammers are cashing in on their excitement. check out these websites. a teen girl's dream. designer prom gowns at deep discounts. these sites sure look real. but designers say it's all a scam.

>> at least three to four times a week we're faced with girls who have been scammed by online websites.

>> it was bad. the dress was a hot mess.

>> that's alexandra , she just wanted a sherri hill dress.

>> i was working for months to save up the money.

>> she found the perfect dress in the store it costs $400. alexandra found it online for 25% off. and ordered it on the spot.

>> my immediate response was, oh my gosh, the dress i love, it's beautiful and a great price, it's going to make mom happy too. so here's the dress.

>> but just a week before prom, what she got in the mail was misery in a box. a cheap knockoff mailed from china. remember, this is what the real dress looks like, and this is what she got. wrong color.

>> it was supposed to be all blue.

>> wrong fabric.

>> the lining is so itchy.

>> sloppy stitching and way too big.

>> the dress feels cheap and i feel like i look cheap in it.

>> in the photo, look at all those pretty beads. instead, her dress came with a baggy of beads and a sewing kit.

>> i took a step back and i said, do they expect me to sew this on? i'm a teenage girl, i do not know how to sew.

>> all her money gone, now scam artists are shipping imposter prom gowns to girls across the country. look at this shoddy stitching, the dress is falling apart and this beading looks like an arts and craft project.

>> looks mike 7-year-old could make that.

>> she could probably do better.

>> dusty hill is the son of the real sherri hill and president of the company trying to intercept the fakes.

>> it's a huge problem and growing.

>> so huge, the company has hired two full-time investigators to hunt down the counterfeit sites.

>> this is a fake website?

>> yeah, this is a fake website, but they're using authentic pictures. they take it off google images and upload it to the site and pretend it's our dresses.

>> i've covered a lot of stories about fake sites.

>> this is not a problem we're going to be able to fix. it's going to be an ongoing fight.

>> the federal government has shut down hundreds of these sites. but the scammers are tough to catch. many of them based overseas. good luck getting your money back. and those priceless prom memories.

>> when i put the dress on, i didn't feel beautiful, and you're supposed to feel beautiful at prom.

>> can't get over that baggy of beads. alexandra never got her money back. at the last minute, she had to go to a store and buy a new dress and spend hundreds more. how do you protect yourself? call the company that makes the dress and ask, look, i'm on this website right now, is this an authorized dealer? they're happy to tell you. many of the top prom dress designers have a list of authorized retailers right on their website so you can go there and check it out before you go shopping for your prom dress, matt.

>> thank you. do they do it with prom tuxes? did you ever see the tux i wore back in 1923 ?

>> i'd love to find a picture.