Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today

Scam Alert

Scammers Target Small Businesses

Marketing and promotion ploys leave business owners ripe for a rip-off

One way to detect a scam email: hover your computer mouse over any link in the message, without clicking. This should cause the link to display its underlying address. If it's a third-party website, that's a sign of a con. So don't click on it.

"Best of" bamboozles. For years, questionable "who's who"-type directories have fed on the money and vanity of supposed elite business leaders. In reality, selectees are recruited with mass-mailing invites in hopes they'll buy a keepsake copy for up to $900. But beware of other fake awards.

In one longtime ruse that has recently been turning up again, businesses are told they've won a "best of" honor like those touted in regional magazines — and for $100 or more, they can get a commemorative plaque to hang by the front counter. Sure, you may want a memento, but it's worthless and often made by a company calling itself the U.S. Commerce Association, a name that seems intended to make you think it's part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose 3 million-plus members include many small businesses.

Despite warnings by the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Commerce Association (whose company addresses are actually rented mailboxes) has been back to its old tricks, targeting business owners in several cities. Like "who's who" directories, no specific achievement is necessary to be one of its "best of" winners — and those who pay later get bombarded with more spam for similar honors.

Scam Alert was unsuccessful in trying to reach the company; its primary website has been taken down, and it did not respond to emails sent to a new "awards program" website, which provides no telephone number.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Also of Interest

Visit the AARP home page for great deals and savings tips

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.