Worldcob’s Bizz Awards meet with heavy criticism

POSTED: 09/18/13 1:43 PM

St. Maarten Airport does not fall into trap by Houston-based scammers

St. Maarten – Princess Juliana International airport announced this weekend with some pride that it had been selected for “another international business award as “one of the most prominent businesses in its industry and region.” Now it turns out that the airport may very well have become the victim of an international business scam.

In a reply to questions from this newspaper, the airport’s public relations bureau notes that the airport did not nominate itself for the award. The airport even contacted the award-issuing organization, the World Confederation of Business (Worldcob) for clarification and received an explanation of the process that was followed. “SXM, apparently, will be sent the award if it chooses the free option,” the airport’s PR bureau stated.

Furthermore, the airport will not send any representative to the award ceremony in Dubai on September 29. “The management and board of SXM took that decision after weighing all the info at the company’s disposal,” the PR bureau stated. The airport is also not a member of Worldcob and it has no intention to join this organization.

Worldcob has a website that offers businesses the opportunity to nominate themselves for the Bizz Award – the one that the airport says it has been awarded. The process does not require much: fill in the name of your business, describe why you think you deserve the award and you’re done.

Already four years ago Worldcob came under fire from people in Botswana on the African continent. Consumer Watchdog, a site that publishes alerts about scams in Botswana, reported that “Bizz Awards are awarded to people who are approached entirely at random and who then cough up $3,530 to join.”

The report claims that Worldcob approached three different companies in Botswana and congratulated them with winning an award. “No initial research, no discreet inquiries, just an email from a total stranger that says they’ve won the award.”

The report claims that companies elsewhere in the world – including non-existent ones – received similar emails.

The report on Consumer Watchdog  has some credibility, because the writer states that a man called Franck from Worldcob called him to explain that the awards are legit, “apparently we’ve cause him a lot of trouble and he was keen to explain to me how legitimate they are but his arguments weren’t very persuasive. One of his best was that they wouldn’t still be in business if they were crooked, would they? I could not help thinking that it works for the mafia, Nigerian scammers and various foreign governments I won’t name.”

Cut a long story short: Worldcob offered the writer a free trip from Botswana to Texas (where they also hold award ceremonies) and put him up in a hotel there, on the condition he removed all references to the Bizz Awards from the consumer Watchdog web site and that he promised not to publish anything about them in the future. Useless to say, this Botswanian consumer watchdog turned down the offer.

On Ripoff Report another award winner told this story. “I have been marketed by the world confederation of business for a Business Excellence Award. They would like me to come to their awards ceremony to receive it. Only problem, I am not in business anymore.”

This award winning non-businessman reported that he would have to pay $3,030 for the award. “Sounds like a scam. After eight emails and three phone calls from someone who can barely speak English, I have decided to do some research.”

This is what the man found: he figured that the company operates out of Peru, not from Houston (even though it has an office there). The email address this writer received email from showed it comes from Telmex in Lima, Peru. Spamhaus.org blocked them “because they are sending out thousands of emails with the same or similar subject titles.”

In the meantime, Richard Harriman went to work on Worldcob in Botswana at Consumer Watchdog. He figured out a way to prove the awards are fake by using an email from a critical reader of his web site. He changed all the details in the email so that it referred to a bogus company he invented. All that existed was a free Gmail address.

“There is no way they could have researched this company, other than to establish that it does not exist,” Harriman reported. Three days after sending his phony email into cyberspace, Harriman received a reply: “It is my pleasure to congratulate you once again. I am sending you this letter to give you more information about our organization and about the way to participate, as a winner, to the Bizz Awards 2009.”

To cut another long story short: Harriman was invited to come to Texas (from Botswana) with a guest, the details of his non-existing company would be entered into Worldcob’s annual memory book and he would be allowed to advertise his products on Worldcob’s web site. Oh, he also had to pay $3,530 to the organization.

Useless to say – Harriman never traveled to Texas, but representatives of Princess Juliana airport Operating Company may very well get on a plane to travel to Dubai to receive their Bizz Award on September 29.

The ceremony takes place in the beyond-upscale Atlantis The Palm Hotel and Resort, where rooms are prices around $450 a night. The cheapest round trip ticket to Dubai we found was around $1,930 and the most expensive one around $4,345. Of course, these prices are economy class and one would not expect airport executives to fly with the common folks. So here are the prices for business class: from $9,563 to $13,057. For first class travelers have to fork over between $11,255 and $14,832. Compared to that, paying some $3,500 for an award becomes close to irrelevant, even though the award itself has no value whatsoever. The good news (for St. Maarten) is of course that nobody will be flying to Dubai.

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