Couponing to get the best deals is a common practice these days. After all, things are expensive at the grocery store, so getting the best deals is a big focus for many people. However, some popular coupon scams could be running things for the rest of us.
Police in Virginia recently arrested a woman for her role in a massive coupon counterfeiting operation. Lori Ann Talens, 41, of Virginia Beach, faces 12 years in prison for mail fraud, wire fraud, and health care fraud. She pleaded guilty to all of the charges, owing to the overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting her direct role in overseeing the counterfeiting operation.
Her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., 43, also faces jail time. He pled guilty to crimes relating to the scam earlier this year and will face 7 years behind bars. “This massive counterfeit coupon scheme harmed consumers, retailers, and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large,” stated Eastern Virginia US Attorney Raj Parekh.
The way this coupon scam worked is by preying on a logistic failing of mailed coupon flyers. Sporting events, concerts, and similar events use barcodes so that each ticket is unique. Once that barcode has been scanned, a photocopy of the ticket becomes useless. However, mailed coupon flyers don’t work this way. There are simply too many printed to make barcodes a sensible solution.
Instead, retailers are instructed to just take the coupon at face value and then dispose of it after the customer redeems it. This is the gray area that Talens’ counterfeiting operation thrived in, generating counterfeit coupons that couldn’t be verified by barcode.
Talens isn’t an amateur. She was able to create these counterfeit coupons due to her background in graphic design, marketing, and point-of-sale systems. Her intimate knowledge of how these systems all worked made her uniquely well-suited to this type of scam, creating coupons that offered significantly better discounts than any that would be legitimately offered.
Talens would then sell the coupons in bulk to online coupon groups, essentially creating a huge ripple effect on unsuspecting retailers who had to eat the losses on the fake coupons. Since most stores just accept these coupons at face value, it took time before anyone realized that the stores were being deceived.
Once retailers and manufacturers realized what was happening, authorities traced the counterfeit operation back to Talens. In the end, the Virginia Beach native will spend over a decade in jail for her trouble. As usual, crime doesn’t pay.