We find answers to consumers' question: John Stobierski at the South Shore Chamber of Commerce alerted us to the latest vanity scam that's making the rounds, courtesy of some outfit that calls itself the ``U.S. Commerce Association.''   

John Stobierski at the South Shore Chamber of Commerce alerted us to the latest vanity scam that's making the rounds, courtesy of some outfit that calls itself the ``U.S. Commerce Association.''   

Stobierski relayed an e-mail that a Braintree-based chamber member received from this so-called association, saying that the firm had been selected for the 2009 ``Best of Braintree'' award in the ``consulting engineers'' category. 


The U.S. Commerce Association assured the e-mail recipient that it identifies companies every year that it believes have achieved ``marketing success'' and also pulls together a sample press release that can be sent out to local media outlets.    


Not surprisingly, the e-mail says that a ``Best of'' award has already been designed for display in the recipient's offices. 


The links and code in the email eventually reveal the cost of that hardware: $80 for a ``Best of Braintree'' plaque or $180 for a ``Best of Braintree'' crystal award.   


Fortunately, the local engineering firm didn't fall for this bogus trick. The actual Web site is a bit too goofy-looking for any serious business organization or trade group. Another telltale sign that things aren't on the up-and-up: There's no visible phone number. Instead, the Web site says that the U.S. Commerce Association responds to questions in writing and not by phone ``to remain neutral and maintain the integrity of our selection process.''    


Come on. It's not like we're talking about the Pulitzer Prizes or the Academy Awards here.   


While there is no trade organization called the U.S. Commerce Association, the name sounds suspiciously like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a legitimate business organization. Fortunately, the U.S. Chamber has more important things to do than to devote an entire Web site to shilling worthless plaques.   


The U.S. Commerce Association, on its Web site, boasts that ``supporting local business is good business.'' Sure, it's good business - for whoever is raking in the cash from selling these ridiculous awards.      


Do you have a consumer issue you want us to address? E-mail us at biznews@ledger.com.