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Law firm investigating potential multi-million dollar scam involving vanity awards

A law firm is exploring possible legal action to stop a marketing scam involving vanity awards.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 7:14 AM HST|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 7:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A law firm is exploring possible legal action to stop a marketing scam involving vanity awards.

Attorney James DiPasquale stumbled upon these “Best of Honolulu” and “Best of Waikiki” awards on a website involved in a civil trial.

He said the former owner of Waikiki Beach Rentals’ website paid about $100 a year for the bogus claim and it’s still displayed online.

“We actually believe it was intended to misrepresent the credibility of the website to the end user or the third party consumer so that they would stay on the site and they wouldn’t search for other sites that they might otherwise find a better deal on,” said DiPasquale.

The site states that they were selected by the Honolulu Award Program.

DiPasquale is now looking for other businesses that got duped, or knowingly bought the title to make them look good.

The attorney said these types of awards are normally issued by reputable companies such as the Star Ad and Honolulu Magazine based on surveys or expert evaluations.

Roseann Freitas of the Better Business Bureau said it’s a red flag when money is exchanged for the award.

“Now, it’s not uncommon, even for a legitimate award to say, hey, you won this now would you like to pay for some advertising to promote it?” Roseann said. “But the difference there is you don’t have to pay for the advertising to win the award, just to promote the award.”

Robbie Baldwin, owner of Scarlett Honolulu, said he got an email trying to sell him an award a couple years ago.

“I mean from the general read of it, it looked a little legit,” said Baldwin. “And then once we clicked through the links, and it was asking for payments to receive their award, it became very clear that it was a scam.”

“It does lend a sense of credibility that shouldn’t really exist, and it could hurt other businesses that may in fact, be better,” said DiPasquale. “So, I do believe that ultimately, the end consumer is harmed here.”

DiPasquale said they’re also looking for people who have relied on any of these awards in making a decision to rent a condo or purchase a product.

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