From time to time, couponers take their love of a good deal too far by crossing over into coupon fraud. (If you don’t know what coupon fraud is — or you’re concerned about whether you’re committing coupon fraud — we’ve got an entirely different article for you.)
In the last week we’ve got news on two separate coupon fraud cases — one with charges, another with convictions and sentencing. As retailers are trying to recover financially after Covid-19 lockdowns and slowdowns, it’s not the news we were hoping for.
Here’s what you need to know:
A West Virginia fraudster stole $100,000 from Kmart with fake mobile coupons.
Tanya Thompson (aka Tanya Whetzel) of Martinsburg, W.V. was convicted of wire fraud in U.S. District Court by exploiting Kmart’s “Shop Your Way” rewards program at stores in 25 different states during the second half of 2017.
When cashiers get certain barcodes from “Shop Your Way” members, they have to manually input the coupon amount listed on the mobile coupon. Thompson significantly increased the coupons’ value and used the earnings to buy $94,977.50 worth of third-party gift cards and prepaid credit cards.
On April 15, the court sentenced Thompson to three years probation, including six months of home detention.
A mom-and-pop print shop is also charged with making fake coupons.
A day after the Thompson sentencing, we learned that federal prosecutors have charged a Virginia woman and her husband of printing and selling tens of millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit coupons.
Lori Ann Talens and Pacifico Talens of Virginia Beach are accused of using their print shop resources to design and print more than 13,000 different kinds of coupons with values “far in excess” of those of legitimate coupons.
Coupons in the News says the Talens will appear in court April 29, and could face up to 20 years in prison, plus fines and restitution.
If a coupon seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Obviously, you want to steer clear of illegal coupon use. Don’t make your own coupons. Don’t photocopy them. Don’t alter their amounts.
But also, keep an eye out for some telltale signs of a counterfeit:
- The coupon makes you serious cash (not $0.50 or $1.00, but $5+).
- The coupon requires you to pay something first before you can redeem it.
- The coupon comes with fees attached.
- The coupon has no expiration date.
- The coupon lacks pertinent details (size, quantity, brand name, et al).
- The coupon looks faded or poorly printed (like it is a photocopy, not an original).
- The coupon has no verbiage noting that it is “void if sold” (nearly all coupons have this).
We’ve got plenty more fraud-stopping tips in our article, “Are You Committing Coupon Fraud?”