Beware of Vanity Award Scams

Beware of
Vanity Award Scams

WEME – Eugene Chung

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Beware of Vanity Award Scams

I do not doubt a good number of us have not had such an email popped into our email inboxes in our career lifetimes. I even had such fake award recognition invitations via LinkedIn privately messaged (PM). All such invitations came with a payment requirement, obviously. 

Fake Business Award Scams

Awards do have their place in the business world. Awards recognise the hard work and achievements of your employees so winning one can help boost staff morale and improve motivation. Employees are focused on what is great about the company they work for and can feel proud to be a part of it.

Award and quality brownie points can boost an organisation’s reputation, setting one apart from the crowd. They can also give the organisation’s people or employees a morale boost by highlighting their achievements. If you’re a young company like a startup, winning awards can signal to the world that the upstarter has arrived. Such awards or recognition help cement one’s credibility and standing in the business world. Unfortunately, in reality, we know nothing is for free, there is always a price to pay. So, welcome to the Vanity Award scamming schemes.

Business Vanity Awards Eugene Chung ArmourZero

Fake Business Awards

Such award scams have been in existence for a long time and are still on the rise in recent times. These awards are often sold for a few hundred dollars. Let us be realistic that we should not be asked to foot the bill if we are legitimately getting an award for some recognition. Do not be confused with sponsorships, that is sponsoring an event. If one is actively involved in the local community and willing to pay to sponsor an event and have the company’s name in light, that is legit. These vanity awards are offered by unknown entities and have no connection with one’s community or business.

If you are presented with an email offering you an award, it goes without saying that you should ignore it.

Remember: Real Awards Don’t Cost Money.

As business owners/founders, as real as day follows night and vice versa, you will receive numerous calls and/or emails stating your company has been nominated or selected for an award (Business Scam Award). Your Scam Alert warning system should be ringing loudly and that Award, Trophy or Plaque, has a price tag, then it is very likely a scam.

Vanity Awards

Note that vanity awards are awards where the recipient purchases the award and/or marketing services to give the false impression/appearance of a legitimate honour.

Pitches for Who’s Who-type publications (Vanity Press), biographies or nominations for awards or special memberships have catches where the honourees must pay for recognition.

It is a human nature trait of being vain, where everybody loves to get recognition for their work. Even more so if the forum/panel external to the organisation is ready to applaud one’s work publicly by giving an award. There are awards and recognition in every field. There are excellence awards, guild awards, ABC/XYZ of the year awards and many more. Then, there are also prestigious magazines and honourable mentions which give automatic merit to one’s performance (e.g. Time Magazine). Getting on the big lists is an exciting prospect and dream of many, which will certainly boost one’s career and company standing in the dog-eat-dog world of businesses. Last but not least, it is the validation of one’s hard work.

So, if you receive an email saying you have been nominated for a bigwig award, you ought to jump on the opportunity, right? Wrong. Do not be so gullible and naive, let alone being stupid.

Cybercriminals are Around

You must have guessed by now the dangers that cybercriminals are lurking in and around the corners, watching you, observing you, waiting to make their moves. If they are so inclined, they may even know a concerning amount of details about you already:

  • Are you frustrated at work?
  • Do you feel you are not getting the value or recognition you deserve?
  • Are you super excited about your job? 
  • Looking to scale new heights?
  • If you are desperate, love the limelight, are a born show-off and a vain pot, bingo!

They know. Whatever the case, it is common knowledge that receiving an award is an impetus many corporate businesses encourage. It is a natural productivity booster.

This is how cybercriminals start reverse-engineering their victim’s mindset and emotional state.

Business Vanity Awards Eugene Chung AmourZero

It all begins with a well-timed email nominating you for an award.

You are excited, your alertness subsides, and your guard is down. The cybercriminal baits by dangling the carrot to the victim by saying that he/she needs to register for the award. The register link is (no surprise) a phishing link that will take you to a fraudulent website, triggering some malware into your system. Another method phishers use is to exploit the pay-for-play nature of some of such scam awards. Honourable mentions do not come for free. The awardee asks for a sizable sum to keep you in the running for an award and with the fake link in the fake email, the victim lands upon a dummy landing webpage with a payment gateway that is connected to the criminal’s bank account. The victim, thinking he/she is paying for a legitimate award, ends up funnelling money to the scammer, the victim only realising being scammed that the award was not authentic at the onset but, sorry to say, too late.


In conclusion, who does not want to be recognised for their good actions, their good jobs done and the excellence of their companies and employees? To pay for or buy an award to be recognised is pathetically ridiculous as discussed in this CISO Talks interview:

“Fake Cybersecurity Awards are Ridiculous | CISO Talks”

Catch When Expert Meets Expert by Eugene Chung articles every bi-weekly Tuesday. Don’t forget to subscribe to stay connected. You are also encouraged to ask questions and seek advice from him.

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