ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- A local photographer thought she was getting a special recognition after getting an email from the Rock Island Award Program. In an email she received Thursday, Nov. 1, Trisha Keel was informed she had been chosen as a 2018 Best of Rock Island Award recipient.
"At first I thought, 'Wow, that's incredible. What an honor!'" the owner of Trisha K Photography says.
Keel says she thought it was an award from the City of Rock Island. But she says it all looked fishy after she clicked on the link to accept her award.
"I quickly scroll through (the website), and I see that they want me to pay over $200 for an award," she says.
There were photos of sample plaques in several styles and with different price ranges. They all had Keel's business name printed on them.
Keel says she thought it was a scam right away.
"If you're getting an award, you're not paying hundreds of dollars for them to recognize you," she says.
The City Manager Randall Tweet says he hasn't received any complaints about the website.
"We don't have enough information about (the website) to call it a scam," he told News 8 after taking a look at the website. "It does not look legitimate when I first look at it."
News 8 called the number listed on the website to get more information about the Rock Island Award Program but reached a voicemail and left a message. News 8 also replied to the email address that had initially contacted Keel.
The about page on the program's website says it honors "the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Rock Island Area." It does not specify the Rock Island here in Illinois anywhere on the website. Several national companies are listed as past recipients of the awards.
"No small business owners have locally featured or awarded, which is always very fishy as well," Keel says.
The website says the proceeds from the awards sold support local businesses and maintaining the Rock Island Award Program.
Keel says she's not convinced any of the money goes back to local businesses.
"It's just sleazy. It's just wrong," she says. "They're not really doing anything illegal that I'm aware of other than saying, 'You've been recognized. Here's an award you can purchase.'"
Tweet says the Rock Island Police have been informed about the website.
"If you didn't really know what you're doing or you're kind of new to having a small business, it could be an easy way to make $200 and send you a small trophy," Keel says.
She says she hopes the website can be taken down.
UPDATE 11/02/2018: The Rock Island Police has released a statement about the Best of Rock Island Award Program website.
On November 1, 2018 the City of Rock Island was notified by a local business stating that they were contacted in regard to winning an award. The business was directed to a website identified as “Rock Island Award Program”, which was soliciting money in exchange for the “award”. The City of Rock Island has no affiliation to this website and cannot confirm its validity.
We would strongly encourage local residents/businesses not to engage in this site or any other solicitation from unknown individuals.