Teach a kid to coupon, and you could set them on the path to lifelong financial responsibility. Teach a kid to use counterfeit coupons – and they could get arrested.

That’s what happened to a 16-year-old Walmart employee in Pennsylvania.

State police reported late last week that they were called to the Walmart in Hazle Township back on January 23. Loss prevention officers reported that the unnamed male employee was responsible for a “reloadable gift/debit card fraud” totaling $9,407.

Police say the employee had been scanning a coupon “that would override the point-of-sale system at Walmart and allow for an associate to put in a dollar amount, up to $500.” The employee allegedly scanned this coupon some 20 times, and put the balances onto gift cards.

Few additional details about the case are available, since the suspect is a juvenile and his identity was not released. But police say the investigation is ongoing, possibly in order to determine whether anyone else was involved in the scheme.


Retailers frequently caution that they don’t accept any kind of coupon that will give you a free gift card when you scan it. Coupons are supposed to give you a modest discount off your purchase, after all, not give you hundreds of dollars in free money on a gift card. But gift card coupons have become popular anyway – among fraudsters, at least.

There have been a number of cases in recent years involving counterfeit coupons that will trigger the activation of a gift card at the checkout. Because few cashiers would actually accept such a coupon without becoming suspicious, many of these cases have either been inside jobs, or took place at self-checkouts where the suspects could scan their coupons without being scrutinized.

Perhaps the most well-known case of its kind involved a former reality TV star, who was convicted in 2019 of using a fake mobile coupon at Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores to get more than $18,000 in gift cards. A year later, two suspects used a counterfeit mobile coupon to get nearly $7,000 in gift cards at multiple Kroger stores outside of Atlanta. And later that year, two Florida women were arrested for using fake coupons at Walgreens stores across the state to get some $30,000 worth of gift cards.

That last case was noteworthy in that the women didn’t even use self-checkouts – somehow, they allegedly managed to get their counterfeit gift card coupons past actual cashiers at store checkouts.

The Pennsylvania teen apparently didn’t need the help of any cashier at Walmart, since he worked there and was able to check out without assistance. But now he may be paying a steep price. He’s charged with theft by deception, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The teen’s age may shield him from getting the maximum penalty. But if convicted, he may learn an expensive lesson anyway – getting fired from your first job for defrauding your employer isn’t a good thing to have on the resume, after all. Ultimately, the most important lesson may be that there’s a right way and a wrong way to use coupons. And now this Walmart employee knows the wrong way.

Image source: Walmart

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