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Beware: Business Vanity Awards Are Back

Oct. 9, 2013

Beware: Business Vanity Awards Are Back

The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) is alerting businesses and organizations to be cautious of congratulatory emails claiming the company has won the “Best of…” award for businesses in their community or industry.

All too frequently vanity pitches for “Who’s Who” type publications, biographies or nominations for awards or special memberships have a catch to them. In some cases honorees who receive such emails, letters or calls are not chosen by a select committee, as they are often told, but are plucked off mailing lists or have had their email addresses harvested from web sites. Phony vanity awards prey on small businesses who are trying to make their companies stand out in their industry.

Recently, the BBB has received several documented reports from Wisconsin businesses, regarding emails received from such (out of state) award notification firms. Business owners are told that a plaque and certificate have been created to mark the honor and is available for a price (a minimum of $140) and even offers a “press release media campaign” at an additional cost.

“Award schemes often have little or no value to the business within the community for which they do business,” said Ran Hoth, CEO/president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin. “Businesses are generally not charged to receive honors for which they are awarded. Vanity awards are often money-making schemes that have little to do with a business’ performance.”

BBB offers the following tips when checking the validity of an award:

•Check out the company. Get a free BBB Reliability Report at bbb.org.
•Keep an eye out for red flags. Signs of a scam are receiving an award you didn’t apply for or omitted basic details on the organization in the email. Most awards of value to any business will come from a local business organization or a known, recognized trade organization for a specific industry.
•Don’t be afraid to ask questions. An organization offering a reputable award won’t hesitate to answer in-depth questions about its program including how many businesses are honored each year and how honorees are chosen.
•If the announcement for the award leads to a web site, do not enter any personal information on that site unless you are positive of the award’s validity.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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