Phoenix police arrested three people Tuesday morning on suspicion of selling counterfeit coupons online. Police also served a search warrant at a residence at 36406 N. 29th Ave. and found evidence, including equipment used to make the fake coupons and the coupons themselves. Robin Ramirez, 46, Amico Fountain, 42, and Marilyn Johnson, 62 were arrested in connection with the scheme that cost manufacturers "hundreds of millions of dollars," police said. Police said Ramirez allegedly helped placed false security measures on the coupons to make them look valid. Fountain and Johnson both helped package and ship the coupons, police said.
More than 40 of the country's largest manufacturers have fallen victim to this new kind of forgery, police said. "Families depend on coupons," police spokesman James Holmes said at a news conference with representatives from four major manufacturing companies, including Procter & Gamble. "It's part of daily life. This has had a huge impact on citizens, manufacturers and employees."
Police said approximately four years ago high-quality copies of manufacturer's coupons began surfacing in the United States from an unknown source. The victim companies, teamed with Coupon Information Corp. and hired private investigators to find where the coupons were being sold in the country. The investigators found several market re-entry points, with the most prolific one located in Arizona, officials said.
The Arizona operation was set up as a website, Savvyshoppersite.com doing business as Savvy Shopper, which is not related to the local consumer magazine, officials said. Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corp, said people who are mostly involved in this type of scheme used eBay. "They were selling millions of dollars worth of coupons on that site in addition to SavvyShoppersite.com," Miller said. Miller stressed that people who pay for the fake coupons put themselves in jeopardy of being arrested.
Sgt. David Lake, however, said police won't be arresting people who buy fake coupons unless "they say, 'I want a hundred million of the coupons.'" Lake said the site was fishy because it was by referral only. People had to be invited to the site and buyers were offered a "100 percent guaranteed return" if the coupons didn't work, he said.
A representative from Bar-S Foods Co., said the Phoenix company has "lost a quarter of a million dollars" through the scheme. Working in conjunction with the private sector, the FBI internet crimes unit and internal resources assembled a case against SavvyShoppersite.com, which has been reviewed by county attorneys for prosecution and asset forfeiture. This case is the first of its kind in the United States, officials said.
Is it illegal to pay for coupons or what? Otherwise how would you know the coupons were fake?
This caught my attention also - with all the coupons available in magazines, newspapers, online, why would anyone pay for coupons? But apparently this "problem" has been going on for some time.
Coupon Fraud Investigations: Coupon Information Corporation Interview
Because coupons mean big business, there is a lot of coupon fraud.
By Tracey Kelley
Using printable online coupons, coupon codes, and in-store coupons may save you a lot of money, but coupon fraud investigations are on the rise. So, there are some important factors to keep in mind when searching for coupon deals. The Coupon Information Corporation is a not-for-profit association of coupon-issuing manufacturers dedicated to enhancing the integrity of coupon industry. The CIC has assisted law enforcement officials with every significant coupon fraud case since May 1986, and has a 100 percent success rate.
LoveToKnow Save talked with Bud Miller, the executive director of the CIC, about maximizing coupon savings and avoiding scams.
Coupon Fraud Investigations: Coupon Information Corporation Interview
Why do companies offer coupons as a promotional device?
Coupons are a great promotional device, a true part of Americana, and the only way for companies to make sure that consumers receive 100 percent of the discount they are offering. They are also very effective. Coupon offers generate immediate and trackable sales.
Is it worth the effort to clip coupons? If so, what are the best methods for using them effectively?
Definitely yes! The best way to use coupons is to use them on products which are on sale and which offer a rebate.
Many people are searching the Internet for big-deal coupons. What three considerations indicate the threat of coupon fraud?
If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"Free Product" or nearly-free product coupons are the most frequently counterfeited coupons.
Coupons that appear to have been printed on home or office equipment, yet were not designed to be Internet print-at-home coupons.
Never Buy a Coupon
Should you ever have to buy a coupon?No. Manufacturers give away billions of coupons for free. Consumers should not pay for them.
Some people try to sell coupons or coupon booklets online. Are these legitimate money-saving offers?
No. We are not aware of any legitimate person or organization that sells coupons. The sale of coupons violate the "Terms and Conditions" of virtually every coupon issued in the United States.
We are not aware of any legitimate coupon sales on eBay, either. As a point of fact, numerous manufacturers, industry associations, and even some law enforcement officials have requested eBay to prohibit the illicit coupon sales. As of this date, eBay has declined to do so.
Legitimate sources for coupons are manufacturer's websites and their authorized vendors, such as CoolSavings and Coupons, Inc., for example.
There are also other legal discount-based promotional devices. The most popular example is the charity-based Entertainment Books that feature discounts to restaurants and activities.
While it's helpful to look for coupons online before shopping, keep in mind that not all manufacturers offer printable online coupons.
Scams Involving Coupons
What are some examples of coupon fraud of which consumers need to be aware?
Scammers usually offer big promises of free money, money without work, and easy money. These are the coupon fraud investigations that our organization deals with.
Here are some telltale signs of a counterfeit coupon:
Pictures on the coupon are fuzzy
Coupon text is misspelled
Longer-than-normal expiration dates
Coupon doesn't scan at the register
Physical coupons printed only on one side
Multiple coupons for the same product with the identical bar code numbers or PINs
Internet coupons missing vendor security features
Some manufacturers also do not issue Internet print-at-home coupons
Here's an example of a work-at-home coupon scam. Notice the spelling errors in the following appeal:
You are buying 5 Booklets with $1000 of coupns in each book. Here is how it works: Each booklet has 100 $10 Coupnon in them, Thats 500 x $10 Coupons. You cut out a $10 Coupon and Fill out a card that is on the inside of the booklet. They provide you will 1 but you can photo copy it or they will send you a new one each time you use a $10 Coupon. In the booklet or on the website you find your favorite Food and Consumer Items (This includes everything not just food-Dipers,Toiletpaper whatever) and it will have a item # next to it. Send it in with a cutout $10 Coupon 1 of the 500 from the booklets and $2 for processing and they send you back a envelope with $12 or more of the coupons you need!
What other words of wisdom would you like to pass along?
Coupons are a great way to help balance your budget in these difficult times. Follow the rules and you can get some great savings, but be careful, there is no legitimate way to "get rich" with coupons. Most con artists are very friendly and outgoing, but they'll empty your accounts and take over your credit lines as they are befriending you. Everyone is vulnerable; it just takes a single moment of weakness or misguided trust to bankrupt you.
Visit the CIC website for an updated list of counterfeit coupons and to become aware of shady deals. You can also use this site to report any scams you might encounter.
If you have a favorite product, write to the manufacturer directly or visit its website to request coupons.
Suspected Coupon Counterfeit Ring Busted In Phoenix
Cops: First case of its kind in the country.
Phoenix police seized vehicles, jewelry and weapons from a home near Interstate 17 and the Carefree Highway. They've also arrested three people in what they call a sophisticated coupon scheme.
Police say the culprits were able to obtain the fake coupons through an illegitimate broker overseas. It's estimated that about $25-million worth of coupons were seized from a woman's Northwest Phoenix home. Investigators say local businesses have lost tens of millions of dollars as a result of the sophisticated ring…which could mean numerous jobs could be on the chopping block. As a reminder, police are warning consumers to beware of companies and online websites that charge people for coupons.
My daughter lives in the Phoenix area and coupons very aggresively. It makes me wonder if she could have had some of these coupons. She is an extremely honest person and wouldn't do it knowingly but she is also trusting and i can see her getting scammed. Things that make you wonder.
Spanky, if she's clipping them out of papers & magazines or mfg's coupons on the grocery store shelves, I doubt she has anything to worry about. The biggie here is for online coupons (which have been "bought" for distribution that way).
Many chain restaurants offer coupons online - to those who have signed up to receive them. There is no fee for registering with these companies (Logan's SteakHouse, Mimi's Restaurants, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, etc.) These are "safe".
Last edited by Seeker; 07-11-2012 at 01:16 PM.
The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
At least locally, I don't know of ANY supermarket that will accept coupons printed on a home computer. Many stores I have been in have signs that they do not accept internet coupons.
Nope, no stores around here accept them either, which really ticks me off. There are some really good coupon deals on manufacturer's websites that I can't use because of criminals like the ones in the OP. Many people need these offers to make ends meet.
Needs more cowbell.
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