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May 31

Scam alert: Vanity awards

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is warning businesses of a vanity award scheme going around.

Reports from Buffalo and Rochester area business owners to BBB’s Scam Tracker say they received emails stating they are the winner of a “2016 Best of [TYPE OF BUSINESS]” award in their city.

Vanity Award

Did you win this award? Probably not…

It turns out that businesses are not winning based on merit, but for the sole intent of purchasing the plaque or certificate for an inflated price. The website claims this award program is run annually to recognize the best in the industry for, “exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.”

award website 2

“Winners” are then encouraged to pay $149 or more to claim their award and receive a personalized plaque.

BBB’s investigation into the websites (local.awardconnections.org, awardconnections.net) found the domain was registered earlier this year to Nathan Bethel from a company called Award Connections in Houston, TX. Several other BBBs across the country also received calls from business owners about this “awards program.” The other reported email is coming from bestbusinesses.biz, which is registered in Toronto, ONT.

BBB recommends the following tips to avoid a vanity award scheme:

Check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org to ensure the offer is legit.

Learn everything you can about the organization that is “giving” the award. If it is coming from a mystery company, chances are it just wants your money.

If you didn’t apply for an award or if you don’t know how you got nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.

Most legitimate awards do not come with costs for the recipient. If there is a cost, scrutinize it even more closely. If there is a fee for winning or for receiving a certificate or plaque it could be a scam.

Ask specific questions about how your company or organization was chosen for an award and find out how many similar awards are given each year. Get details. Businesses and organizations that offer legitimate awards will usually be willing to provide detailed information on why a specific company received the award.

If the announcement for the award leads to a website, do not enter any personal information on that site unless you are positive of the company’s legitimacy and the award’s validity.

You can also check BBB’s Scam Tracker to see if others are reporting this activity.

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