Americans are known for their couponing, for better or worse. But Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve figured out that misusing coupons can help you earn a small fortune – if you don’t get caught.

And four couponers in Spain have just gotten caught.

The Spanish National Police’s economic crimes unit has announced that a man and three women, all members of the same family, have been arrested in the coastal city of Málaga. They’re accused of defrauding a local department store out of more than $15,000, by fraudulently obtaining coupons and using them to get deep discounts on items that they then sold online.

It was all made possible by a loophole in the store’s promotional program that the retailer likely didn’t consider, but that the four managed to exploit.

The department store offered new customers a 10% discount on their first online purchase, in the form of a coupon good on a future transaction. Sounds simple enough. But instead of a general 10% off coupon, new shoppers would earn a customized coupon valued at 10% of the price of their first purchase, good on their next purchase.

So if you bought, say, a new TV valued at around $1,000, you’d get a coupon worth $100 off your next purchase.


That’s exactly what police say the four suspects did. And then they allegedly cancelled the order, kept the coupon, and used it on a lower-priced product for a greater discount.

So buy a $1,000 TV, get a $100 coupon, return the TV, use the coupon on a $100 product, and get something for nothing.

It worked – so police say the suspects did it again. And again, and again – 211 times in all, using fake email addresses and user profiles each time to pose as new customers and earn more coupons. The higher the value of their initial purchase, the better, as they would pocket the high-value coupon, combine it with others they had collected, cancel the order or return the product to the store, then use their coupons to purchase products like household appliances, gaming consoles and televisions, all of which they then offered for sale.

Police caught on to the scheme when a suspicious department store employee reported an unusually frequent number of returns by two of the four shoppers.

Investigators searched the home of the main suspect, and seized two TV’s, three game consoles, ten console controls, dozens of video games and four mobile phones (pictured above), along with cash and “a huge amount of documentation” related to the alleged fraud.

Police estimated the four suspects obtained more than $15,000 worth of merchandise by scamming the system. All four are now facing criminal charges of fraud. And future new customers of the department store may not get such lucrative coupon offers anymore.

Because just like in America – those who abuse the system, end up ruining it for everyone else.

Image source: Spanish National Police

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