Jun 3, 2013 3:29 PM by MELISSA CANONE
BBB of Acadiana is warning businesses and organizations to be cautious of emails from Lafayette Award Program. The emails say that you've won their 2013 "Best of Lafayette" award for your industry and congratulate you for joining "such an elite group of small businesses."
You are then offered the opportunity to purchase a plaque, a crystal award or both at a cost ranging from $79.99 to $199.98. A complimentary digital award image and personalized press release are also included in the package.
The awards appear to be part of a widespread scheme designed to get businesses to pay for vanity awards of little or no value. They mirror offers made in the past by U.S. Commerce Association, an organization whose phony vanity awards were the subject of several BBB. In fact, the business address listed for Lafayette Award Program is the same address as U.S. Commerce Association's.
A BBB alert from a similar scam by the same company can be found online at http://www.bbb.org/memphis/business-reviews/vanity-publishers/memphis-award-program-in-memphis-tn-44042801. It links the local awards to the US Commerce Association.
Instead of using the name U.S. Commerce Association everywhere, the scheme has been localized with a city name such as Lafayette. BBBs across the nation have issued warnings about these kinds of vanity award schemes since 2008.
Phony vanity awards prey on small businesses who are trying to make their companies stand out in their industry. The program's website tells business owners that "a select few have been able to benefit from the strategic value of business awards" and that "a business award can be an account executive's ace-in-the-hole."
BBB offers the following tips to businesses to avoid being taken by this or similar schemes:
· Most awards of value to any business will come from a local business organization such as a chamber of commerce or a known, recognized trade organization for a specific industry. Award schemes often have little or no value to the business within the community in which they do business.
· Most businesses are not charged to receive honors that they are awarded. If you are being charged to receive a plaque or trophy, it is likely a money-making scheme that has little to do with business performance.
· Start With Trust. Always check with the BBB before doing business with a company, even if they seem to be doing you a favor. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially if you have to pay for the honor.
The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.
The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.