The queenpins of the coupon scam:
Amiko Fountain, top;
Robin Ramirez, left; Marilyn Johnson, right
Here's a great fraud where the counterfeiters got many of the benefits of counterfeiting money, but with much less of the risk.
Three women were arrested in Phoenix, Arizona for selling counterfeit coupons.
The fakes were variations of real coupons, altered to either give a huge discount or to say the product was free.
They had the fake coupons printed overseas, then shipped to themselves, where they resold the coupons for less than their "real" face value.
One of the sites they used to sell the fakes was "savvyshoppersite.com", which was worded to sound similar to the legitimate "Savvy Shopper" magazine.
After an eight-week undercover operation, police raided the women's homes, arresting them and seizing $40 million in bogus coupons.
The women may have made many millions from their scheme.
Why was this less risky than making counterfeit currency?
- Instead of criminal currency counterfeiters, you work with dodgy foreign printers to print your fake coupons.
- You can order the coupons in lower quantities than ordering a huge batch of counterfeit bills.
- You don't have to deal with a retailer directly and get caught; if someone complains that their coupon didn't work, say sorry and refund their money.
- You can openly sell your product to shoppers looking for deals. You can't do that with fake $100 bills.
- With all the different types of coupons you sell, it's harder for authorities to investigate.
The U. S. Secret Service (which investigates money counterfeiting) doesn't try to catch you. (Different sources say different things - the Secret Service used to investigate food coupon fraud, but I haven't found an official source saying they still investigate it.)
- Finally, when you get caught, the penalties are less severe.
- Phoenix police arrest 3 women in fake coupon ring, AzCentral.com>>