Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest has received numerous reports of an email scam targeting small businesses across the country. In the past 24 days BBB Scam Tracker has received 23 reports from potential victims in the Northwest region. This ploy is known as the vanity award scheme —one we’ve reported on in the past.
The email informs small businesses and nonprofits they are a recipient of a “Best of (insert city name) Award.” But in order to claim their trophy, they have to pay up. Business owners report being asked to pay anywhere from $149 to $229 to claim the honor and receive a personalized plaque. Some of these emails list a Seattle address as the place of business, however BBB investigators believe that is likely false information meant to deceive potential victims.
The names attached to the emails include: The Award Program, Business Recognition and Award Connections. The websites the email recipients are being directed to are awardconnections.org, existial.org, cortist.org and encountry.org.
BBB serving the Northwest recommends the following tips to avoid falling for these types of scams:
- Ask questions. Learn everything you can about who is giving the award. If it is coming from a mystery company, chances are they simply want your money. Businesses and organizations that offer legitimate awards will usually be willing to provide detailed information on why a specific company received the award.
- Know the nomination process. Find out who nominated your business for the award. If you didn’t apply for it or the group cannot tell you how you were nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.
- Don’t pay. Most legitimate awards do not come with costs to the recipient. If there is a cost, scrutinize it closely. If there is a fee for winning or for receiving a certificate or plaque it could be a scam.
- Do your research. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org to ensure the offer is legit. Many of the business owners who reported the scam to BBB did their own investigating and found we’ve reported on this scam in the past.
Companies that have fallen victim to these or other scams are encouraged to report their experience to Better Business Bureau at 206-431-2222 or at bbb.org.
If you are looking for a legitimate business award, consider applying for BBB’s Torch Awards. It is free to enter and is open to all accredited and non-accredited businesses. Applications are being accepted until July 10. Visit go.bbb.org/1TCW0Pc to learn more about the award requirements.