BBB Tip: How to spot and avoid vanity awards

Trusted, hardworking businesses deserve recognition, but not the kind you have to pay for. Vanity awards are a waste of business owners’ money and time. Here’s how to spot and avoid these phony awards.


Vanity awards exist in virtually every industry and for every profession. For some, you fill out a form and pay a fee to enter the “competition.” With others, you are simply notified that you’ve won and directed to a place where you can claim your award. These awards may sound good, but in most cases, they are simply a way to trick small business owners out of their money.

A typical vanity award scam starts with an email. For example, one small business owner reported to BBB Scam Tracker receiving this message: “Hello, and I hope that you are having a great day! My name is Will, and I am emailing you to let you know that you have been selected for the 2022 [City Name] Best Award! For the next year, you will be promoted on our website, so anyone searching in the area will find you… Here are all of the award details, and most importantly, this link where you will claim the award.”

Generally, messages like these come with strings attached. First, you must click on a suspicious link. Then, among the instructions on how to claim the award and receive your prize is the big catch. You need to pay a one-time fee! According to recent BBB Scam Tracker reports, these “awards” typically cost a few hundred dollars.

BBB recommends the following tips before paying to receive an award: 

Research the award. Check out the company’s BBB Business Profile at to ensure that the offer is legitimate. Have other small businesses in your area ‘won’ the same award from the same organization? What does the award celebrate or acknowledge? Answering questions such as these will help you determine if it is legitimate.

Ask specific questions. Learn everything you can about who is giving the award, where they are located, how long the award has existed and how your business was selected as a winner. Organizations that offer legitimate awards will be willing to provide specific details on why they chose your company.

Know the nomination process. Find out who nominated your business for the award. If you didn’t apply for it or the organization cannot tell you how you were nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.

Check for payment requirements. Most legitimate awards do not come with costs to the recipient. If there is a fee, scrutinize it closely. It could be that the person or organization is simply after your money if there is a fee for winning or receiving a certificate or plaque.

Be wary about clicking on links in emails from strangers. Scammers often hide malware in email links. If you click on one of these links, they may gain access to personal information stored on your device. Double check you’re dealing with a real business before clicking on a link.