The Better Business Bureau is warning small businesses to steer clear of mass-distributed "vanity awards." The U.S. Local Business Association or USLBA is now using the name U.S. Commerce Association or USCA to distribute these vanity awards in the state.
Vanity awards prey on a business' desire to look good. "Best of Local Business" Awards — which are believed to be mass-distributed — entice recipients to purchase plaques.
The business usually receives an e-mail that begins: "I am pleased to announce that has been selected for the 2009 Best of Award in the category by the US Commerce Association."
BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has identified that multiple businesses in a city are sometimes given the same award within the same category; the categories can also be so specific that only a few businesses would qualify for the award.
While the awards often look locally distributed, U.S. Commerce Association is based in Washington, D.C. and has BBB's lowest rating, an "F". For BBB's Reliability Report, visit http://www.dc.bbb.org/report.html?national=y&compid=125553595.
The bureau advises the following when checking the validity of an award:
1. Get a BBB Reliability Report at www.bbb.org on the business or organization distributing the award.
2. Look at the title and category of the award. If you don't recognize the award or it seems like an overly specific category that only a small number of businesses could receive, it might be a vanity award.
3. Check to see if there are any fees associated with winning the award. If there is a fee for winning or for receiving a certificate or plaque it could be a scam.
4. 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.
5. Ask questions. Businesses and organizations that offer legitimate awards will usually be willing to provide detailed information on why a specific company received the award.