April Fool’s Day came early this year for the employees of Welsch Heating & Cooling Company. The Maryland Heights, Mo., business received an e-mail informing it that it had won a prestigious 2009 “Best of Business” award from the Small Business Commerce Association. The problem, according to Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, is that the only qualification for the award is paying for it.
Butch Welsch, owner and president of the heating and cooling firm, said he was suspicious of the e-mail from the start. “I didn’t think a random e-mail would be the way we would be notified of an award,” he said. “It seemed very phony.”
The fake award is yet another example of a widespread “vanity awards” scam that has been trying to hook businesses all over the country, including in Southern Arizona, for years by selling them inscribed plaques and trophies that cost $50 to $100 each.
Several months ago, BBB alerted businesses about the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Commerce Association. Like the U.S. Commerce Association, San Francisco-based Small Business Commerce Association appears to have no real standing as a business organization. It seems to exist solely to get businesses to buy its products.
“People enjoy pulling innocent pranks on each other on April 1,” said BBB President Kim States, “but it isn’t funny when people go into business with the year-round intent of deceiving others to enrich themselves.”
BBB says a variety of businesses make money by offering products that depend on trickery and deception. The businesses range from vanity awards programs to businesses that help customers mislead or deceive prospective employers and others. Among them:
- Fake diploma, transcript and resume companies. Many of these businesses maintain that the fakes are for “novelty” purposes only, but it is clear that the materials can be used to mislead the public and employers. “Is your lack of a degree holding you back from career advancement?” asked a recent e-mail received in the BBB offices. “Call us right now for your customized (more…)