The great vanity award scam

Nov 12 | 2018

David Jordan, The Mover’s Deputy Editor, looks at the increasing menace of fake awards and the threat they pose to the genuine article.

The great vanity award scam

We’d all like to be recognised for the great service we give to our customers, the excellence of our products and how well we run our businesses.  After all, having a nice shiny trophy and a certificate on the wall proving to the world how wonderful we are must be a good thing … isn’t it?  Well, no, not necessarily. Sadly, many are fakes and the so-called winners are often victims of scams operated by what, in my opinion, are little more than crooks preying on people’s vanity and gullibility.

This is often how it goes.  You receive an e-mail from what appears to be a respectable magazine or website saying you’ve been nominated by one of your customers for an award – of course, they’re not allowed to tell you who it is because of their GDPR policy. Just to make it look as though everything is on the level you’re asked to answer some questions about your company so that the judges can deliberate and declare a winner. A couple of weeks later you get an e-mail with the good news.  You’ve won not one, but two awards – whoopee! 

The great vanity award scamBut before you start dusting off the dinner-jacket or dashing off to buy a new posh frock for the gala dinner, you might like to read a little further. Actually, there is no gala dinner, or even an awards ceremony, but you will get a free entry in the magazine’s trade directory and a small mention on the award winners’ page. That is unless you’d like to buy a pdf of your award certificate for around £200 + VAT less a discount for immediate payment (don’t forget you’ll need two as you’re a double winner), or perhaps you’d like to push the boat out and buy a couple of crystal trophies for the mantlepiece at about £275 each? If you’re really feeling flush you could go for the ‘Winner’s Package’ that includes a 500-word editorial; or go the whole hog with the ‘Entrepreneur’s Choice’ at £2,000 and get a double-page-spread with pictures and an 1,800-word write-up to impress your friends with. The list of options goes on and the prices go up and up.

To make things worse, ‘winners’ are often put under considerable pressure to buy and according to some reports, those who don’t respond within a few days can unwittingly fall foul of the publication’s T&Cs and are charged a fee anyway.

You could say that if people are silly enough to fall for scams like this they deserve all they get and no doubt some will be quite happy to pay for an award, fake or not, for the privilege of using the ‘badge of honour’ in their marketing material. The sad thing is, like a degree bought on the Internet, or a fake Rolex watch, it devalues the efforts of genuine high-achievers and those who strive to be the best in their field. Consequentially, the ‘Award Winning’ rosette on a company’s website can no longer be relied upon as a seal of quality and expertise and is increasingly becoming a hollow commodity available to anyone prepared to pay the price.

That’s not to say I’m against awards altogether, far from it. There are still lots of genuine competitions with real judges and meaningful awards, many of them run by highly respected organisations in our industry, such as BAR and FEM for example.  However, for genuine industry awards to remain credible and worthwhile in the long term, the fraudsters peddling fake scrolls and statuettes must not be allowed to prevail.  Alert your staff, be cautious and don’t be taken in by this increasingly common scam.

Have you been approached by an organisation claiming you’ve been nominated for an award?  If so we’d like to hear about it:

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