In a window at Diva Diamonds & Jewels, SFR recently spotted a suspicious “Best of Santa Fe” sign emulating the newspaper’s annual Best Of awards.

Diva's award was labeled as coming from the "Santa Fe Awards Program," but the website behind it,, appears in markets as diverse as Manhattan, Chicago and Santa Monica. And from the looks of things, the website uses a flimflam model that attempts to convince businesses to buy their awards.

Baro Shalizi, who runs Shalizi Real Estate, recently received an email from the company notifying and congratulating him for winning its "Best Of Santa Fe" award in real estate. Shalizi replied, asking how his business was selected and whether the program was the same one that's been put on for years by SFR. A week and a half later, he received a response, yet it didn't answer all Shalizi's questions.

"Unfortunately I cannot go into the specifics of the data we use in our selection process," the email, signed by Peter Thompson from the "Review Committee," reads. "We have non-disclosure agreements with the companies that provide us data."

Then came the sales pitch. "Studies show that customers are strongly influenced by thirdparty validations," the email continues. "In addition, we will post your organization on our website as a 2013 Award Winner and link back to your website; allowing new customers to find you. As an award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards."

That cost, according to Shalizi, came to $150. Recognizing a scam when he saw one, Shalizi didn't reply. As for SFR, our phone calls to went unreturned.

"There's no process here," Shalizi tells SFR. "Nobody's voting and nobody's selecting. They're just getting people to go and buy an award." (Joey Peters)