Mike Nelson ran his glass etching business out of Los Altos for 13 years and never had a registered license with the city of Los Altos. Yet last week he received an official-looking email from the so-called Los Altos Award Program notifying him he had won the 2019 Best of Los Altos award for artistic etchings.
Representatives of the program, which no longer has an active website after the Town Crier discredited it in an article earlier this year, included an image of a trophy Nelson could purchase if interested. He posted it to his business Instagram, tagging the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has no affiliation with the award, a member confirmed via social media.
“It all looked pretty professionally done,” Nelson said over the phone. “But of course the charges for the award were extremely expensive, asking $300 for the largest one.”
What made the award even more confusing is that Nelson wouldn’t qualify for it, real or not, because he now runs his services from Cupertino.
“I don’t know how they got my name,” the artist said. “They must be searching for websites and addresses.”
Nelson admitted to initially believing the program and award were legitimate. His first reaction was laughter; it’s fairly typical, he said, that an agency that awards businesses titles expects money. After opening the email, he went on with his day.
“I wouldn’t be surprised Los Altos would want money for plaques,” Nelson said, referring to the program’s claim that it is run by city staff. “But it threw me off.”
In April, city spokeswoman Erica Ray denied that the city had any affiliation with the Los Altos Awards Program, which had been using the city’s name to appear legitimate as it offered phony awards and plaques for a price.
Ray was alerted of the claim by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, at which time she let the office know that the individual or individuals behind the program were lying about the connection.
At the time, the program’s website – awardedbest.org – listed no contact information, other than a phone line that immediately sent callers to voicemail.
Cynthia Sumida, spokeswoman for the DA’s Office, said that as of last week, the Consumer Unit had not identified a suspect.