NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Prom is like the Oscars for high schoolers, but you want to look fabulous without breaking the bank.
Thousands of websites are preying on the tight budgets of young girls. They steal pictures of designer prom dresses and sell them for half the price. Then they send counterfeit versions.
"These sites are making a fortune off the of the United States, off of these girls, a fortune. And most of these girls can't wear the dress they got. Most of them it literally doesn't get worn. It's that bad," said Denise Houck, owner of The Princess Shop in New Hartford.
Both the Princess Shop and Phiajames Wedding in the New Hartford Shopping Center have had girls come in crying and needing to buy a second dress after realizing their bargain was bogus.
"Add those two prices together and you're doubling what you originally spent," said Renee Hartnett, owner of Phiajames Wedding.
Plus, when you buy counterfeit dresses online you're not only hurting yourself, you're hurting the industry and the designer.
"Now these girls have lost their money. Now, they can't go buy the dress from the designer. So actually, one of my designers- a wedding designer has actually gone out of prom. They're not recutting next year at all because it's so prevalent in the prom market," said Houck.
So when shopping online, look out for these red flags:
"If it's made in China, it's definitely counterfeit," said Hartnett.
Also, make sure they have a return policy and an American customer service contact number. But, retailers say the best way to protect yourself is not to buy online at all.
"Go into a store and buy your dress. Figure out what your budget is and just stay within that budget. But don't think you're going to get a $400 dress for $200 because you're basically just going to get ripped off," said Houck.
The bottom line? If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The same goes for those prom dates, ladies.
Connect with Anna on Facebook and Twitter.