Business owners are always looking for ways to set themselves apart from their competitors, and awards and recognition from a third-party are a great way for a company to stand out.

However, in recent weeks, Hewitt-area businesses have received unsolicited congratulatory emails for winning a local award.  Rather than acknowledging outstanding companies, some “awards” are all about making money. BBB warns business owners to be on the lookout for vanity award scams.

In some cases, honorees who receive such e-mails, letters and calls are not chosen by a select committee, as they are often told, but are plucked off mailing lists or have had their e-mail addresses harvested from Web sites.

Many of these vanity award schemes involve businesses receiving awards not based on merit, but rather for the sole intent of purchasing the plaque or certificate for an inflated price.

One telltale sign of a vanity award is that you receive an unexpected e-mail or letter saying you or your business has just won an award, even though you never entered anything and you’ve never heard of the organization bestowing the award.

To distinguish a reputable biographical directory or business award from those of little or no value, it’s a good idea to watch out for red flags such as award websites that lack phone numbers, an address and other basic details on the organization giving the award. Some of these “award” companies are nothing more than an attempt to obtain personal information from victims and their businesses which may be used to commit identity theft or to create fake emails which pretend to come from the executive.

When looking for legitimate award opportunities, do your homework and consider going through Industry/trade organizations or local media.

For more information, visit