Beware of Fake Awards

Here’s a story that, for sheer weight of irony, I wish like anything I’d been the one to break. But author and publisher Michael N. Marcus beat me to it, in a recent post on his Book Making blog.

Everyone loves an award, right? Awards acknowledge excellence and achievement, raise the profile of the awardee, and garner the respect of peers (that’s the theory, anyway). There are plenty of big prestigious awards whose names everyone recognizes, and lots of small, semi-prestigious awards that may be recognizable only within a particular niche or audience, and vast numbers of tiny, all-but-invisible awards that may make you feel good, but will provoke stares of incomprehension if you mention them to someone else.

There are also–you guessed it–vanity awards, where the goal isn’t to recognize excellence, but to entice entrants or winners to hand over cash to the awards sponsors.

For instance, the awards given by the Small Business Commerce Association, which honor “businesses that we believe have achieved exceptional success in their local community.” Sounds cool, right? Wrong. Like the infamous, and now-defunct, scheme, the aim of the SBCA awards is to identify thousands of “winners,” and persuade them to buy stuff: in this case, plaques and trophies. In its own form of award, the BBB gives the SBCA a C-, based on the questions it has received about the business, and the company’s failure to respond.

You’d think it would be transparently obvious that an awards program that makes you buy your own trophy is not legit. And many people are wise to this kind of ploy–if you Google the SBCA, you’ll find much angry, bemused, and amused discussion. But these schemes wouldn’t exist if they didn’t work at least some of the time. The same websearch turns up plenty of happy suckers.

Including, as it happens, Outskirts Press–a self-publishing service/vanity publisher whose put-your-book-cover-on-a-stamp “promotional” service I made fun of a few months back. A sharp-eyed Michael Marcus–who is familiar with the SBCA, having been solicited for one of its fake awards himself–recently spotted a December press release from press-release-happy Outskirts, touting its receipt of a 2009 Best of Business Award from the SBCA. I couldn’t put it better than Mr. Marcus does:

The number of news media that published the Outskirts press release is ONE.

Oops! I’m sorry, folks, but the number should probably be ZERO.

That alleged news medium that published the press release, called Self Publishing News, is actually a blog produced by (drum roll please) Outskirts Press.

So, we have a vanity publisher, using its own vanity blog to publish a vanity press release bragging about a vanity trophy.

I couldn’t make this up.

No, indeed.

Even funnier: It seems this isn’t the first time Outskirts has been hornswoggled by a fake award. Last August, another press release announced Outskirts’ receipt of the 2009 Best of Parker Award from the U.S. Commerce Association. The BBB has received questions about the U.S. Commerce Association similar to those they’ve been receiving about the SBCA, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that, like the endlessly proliferating Who’s Who schemes, these very similar “awards” are in fact run by the same people. Check out, for instance, the nearly identical descriptions of the awards programs on the two organizations’  websites. From the SBCA:

Each year, the SBCA identifies businesses that we believe have achieved exceptional success in their local community…Nominees are typically local businesses that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

And from the USCA:

Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

The USCA is currently being sued by a Las Vegas company for trademark infringement.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

UPDATE 2/16/23: At some point since I wrote this post, both the SBCA and the USCA vanished…replaced by this outfit, which now calls itself just Award Program. It sells similar-looking awards and has identical text on its About page:

Each year, the Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the area a great place to live, work and play.


  1. Today, I am receiving "2016 Best of Business Award" "Click here to complete your profile and get your award" Rich Thurman as well. As long as people have more stupidity and vanity than common sense, Mr Thurman will keep receiving money for his bogus awards.

  2. Just got an email from Rich Thurman (SBCA) this week….my CEO won that infamous award…..Talked to Shoe Thrill, who is now located at that 11 W Boston #2, Chandler address….seems there are finally lawsuits going on over his antics.

  3. I just humbly accepted my sole award from for Best Contractor in Alexandria for Contractors and the $1000.00 check that came with the plaque I could have ordered for just $80.00. Oh, I was just dreaming about the check. So sorry! I can't even post the scam award to my site because I am not a scammeister.

  4. Sure, he is persistent. But perhaps his pink distribution company is less so. The recent spam from him has come from Cox, but today's came from something calling itself "" instead. A little investigation reveals that Infusionsoft is a pink mailing outfit located in Chandler, AZ — the same town as our beloved Richard Thurman.

    Not sure why it is that Arizona seems to draw the spammers. However, it does appear that they have a good crop: Firedrum, Godaddy, Infusionsoft,, DME, and it does not seem to stop.

  5. 9/28/15 and I received an email from I'm just an employee at a small company, I do not own it in any way. Funny thing is that I received a TON of spam email right after I received this one. I wonder if they give out our emails to other businesses and such.

  6. Yes, he is still sending it out. I got another shovel-full of electronic poo from him today, hoping that I will break down and spend $97 for an award. This seems a rather doubtful proposition but I suppose there must be a few who fall for it because his web site does have a series of "press release" posting announcing the names of suckers who bought awards.

    For more info, you can contact him and his ISP folks: [spammer] [yeah I know] [isp rep] [isp rep] [hosting rep] [hosting rep]

    The good new is that, if you find the right form to "reactivate", you can get the $97 award for about $60 so you save lots of money. Yes, you probably would save more by not buying the silly award, but then his whole web site seems kind of pointless.

  7. Yup, Rich still sends me the same crap even today I got one, which made me seek out if others are getting this crap. Most funny/ironic part is the business that "won" this fake award was acquired by another business more than 3 years ago. Way to do your research douchebag.

  8. My business received an identical "award" through They are selling the plaque for only $80 now! Blech.

  9. I got one these award emails this week from Rich Thurman. Googled it because it seemed odd to be "awarded" without entering any competition. This blog's useful thread was very helpful in determining what I suspect. The "award" is rubbish. Incredible that this SBCA keeps chugging along. I wish mainstream media would grab a hold of this story. And what brass Thurman has to actually comment here. Well pull the other leg Thurman. Nice try -but no thank you!

  10. Rich Thurman is still sending emails – 11/13. Cheaper to print the award yourself – same as getting it from sbca….

  11. When businesses know the "award" is a scam then they in turn are scamming the public and cheating their competitors of a level playing field. Come to think of it even if they don't know it is a scam they are still scamming the public and cheating their competitors of a level playing field.

  12. Gee what is the big deal? Why are so many people in this blog/thread so critical of the St. Bernard Club of America? Are they that bad?

  13. SBCA puts up a nifty-looking website, but in my view it's entirely bogus (Mr. Thurman's defense notwithstanding). His "reminder" to come collect my award for small business excellence was delivered to my work email address … at one of the 50 largest companies in the U.S. That's not "small", nor do I own it – I'm just a cog among tens of thousands employees. SBCA is a laugh, but they put up a good front. I might have bought the award just for laughs if that didn't also support SBCA.

  14. What should make us all mad is not the exploitation of the gullible and innocent by SBCA (Thurman's remarks are laughable), but the fact that the states that handle business incorporations ARE SELLING THE INFORMATION to scammers like this.
    SBCA didn't dig up your information by going through your trashcan. They bought a list from each state that they market to…or they bought a mega-list from a list company. I saw an offer for 35,000,000 business names, addresses and some emails that you can buy for $299. The scam can only exist while our information is being sold.

  15. I always find it interesting what people take the time to post about on the internet. To set the record straight, the Small Business Community Association awards are not fake and there are no costs or obligations to accept a nomination or award. However, there is an upgrade package that is available for the business owner that is savvy and understands the benefits of business awards. In 2010, we gathered government data on businesses across the US an generated three profiles: Businesses that we felt were likely struggling given the state of the economy, business that we felt are doing very well and can provide feedback to the rest of the community on what is working well for them, and finally entities such as charities that are in a great position to raise awareness about the SBCA Community website.
    The Small Business Community Association is dedicated to collecting and organizing information, training, and services that are vital to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and anyone else that needs help running a business, operating a business, or wants to know how to start a business.
    The mission of the SBCA Community is to promote a vibrant and growing small business community, support education that will preserve and extend the future of small business and use our gifts within the small business community to serve others for the betterment of our world.
    The SBCA Community vision is to enthusiastically advance small businesses in three key areas:

    1. Growth– To assure a vibrant and growing small business community, our goal is to introduce, engage and mature the next generation of small business owners.

    2. Advocacy–We feel it is fundamental to support education and action outside the small business community that will preserve and extend the future of small businesses.

    3. Compassion–We believe it is essential that we use our gifts within the small business community to serve others for the betterment of our communities and world.

  16. I received the email stating I won the SBCA Community award in my area. The funniest part is it was for Hair Salon business which I have never owned or been a part of at any time! HAHA

  17. I just got a notification from SBCA for my "business" which actually was a virtual store front which expired almost 10 years ago. I wonder what records these guys are trolling to get such outdated information?

  18. Thank you, Victoria. You’re right, this is good research and valuable information, which Outskirts Press will use and share with others who may be less than fully informed of these apparent types of awards.

    You run a very helpful blog for all of us in the publishing industry. Keep up the good work. It is much appreciated.

  19. I fell out of my chair laughing. I get those emails all the time. They're quite clever because they personalize it so that it reads as though it's coming from our local Chamber of Commerce.

    Anyone who thinks they're real is a sentence shy of a paragraph.

  20. Those two blurbs at the end of the post would almost make me think those associations are run by the same person, or am I totally paranoid?

  21. Too funny!
    I got two plaques for my solo law practice from an outfit like that, for free, the first two years I was in business. I accepted them warmly, with a huge grain of salt, and they are gathering dust on a shelf in a room nobody notices they are in!

    I haven't heard from them in the succeeding eleven years…

  22. And if Outskirts Press gets your email addess – you get the endless stream of junk mail – always proclaiming their award winning awesomness. I've complained to them several times for more than a year – still get their crap. They are definitely obnoxious but, then again, maybe they can't read.

    I don't have a problem with all POD companies – went that route myself for my own reasons & purpose. At least I approached the process with my eyes open & with expectations that were realistic.

  23. Thanks Victoria!

    That was the best giggle of my morning. A vanity award for a vanity publisher.

    I remember the whole thing. I had signed up and was thrilled to have "won an award" for one of my pieces, only to discover that in order to claim the award, I'd have to buy it. Buy my own copy of the book it was published in, buy my own trophy….

    I was not impressed, and didn't buy into any of it. Phew!

    Sorry, that was off topic. I think Lori has a good point. In the business that they are, couldn't they have figured it was a scam and simply used it to make themselves seem more legit?

  24. I thought it was funny when I got a letter from one of these companies saying my business had won an award. I took out a business license and that's it. No business actually started.

  25. Now I'm wondering if when my cat gave me the "World's Greatest Human" award she was just looking for tuna and an ear rub. She tricked me with that one.
    Although the award she gave me probably has more weight in the publishing world than the one you mention.

  26. I think it's quite possible they didn't know, were just as happy about being accepted for an award because they could use it in there 'we're legit!' hoopla, as authors who fall for vanity schemes. Maybe it's karma at work.

    Either way, sometimes life really IS stranger than fiction.

  27. Are you certain they were fooled? It's entirely possibly that they know the award is bogus but are banking on people that they scam not knowing it. People looking for a publisher will google them, see them credited with a legit-sounding award complete with press-releases and a write-up, and go, "Oh, this one must not be a scam. They must be legit. Look, they've received rewards and everything."

    That's my cynical spin on things, anyway.

    Keep up the good work, Victoria.

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