Blessed are the Geeks, for they shall internet the earth

New Funny Money
William Nett

Making a counterfeit US Dollar is a felony (actually anything over a nickel is), and requires expensive equipment, extensive knowledge of printing, paper, and inks. But here's a new twist... fake coupons? At best a misdemeanor if proof is provided. Recently I paid patronage to a local McDonalds wherein a bulletin board had a printed statement with a coupon for a free salad. The statement claimed that this was not a valid coupon and would not be honored by the store, although it looked very realistic... bar code and all, it was a fake. The fast food's posting further informed customers that this was spreading via e-mail and was "currently being investigated," and thanked their customers for their patronage. I wondered how many coupons were accepted before this was found to be fake?

I've seen other coupons passed around work for 'nearly-free' meals at other dining establishments... and realized that this is the new craze. Once more there are hacktivist websites that post printable bar-codes for such stores as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc... where people can pay pennies on the
dollar for products. Legally, this is a big problem. Many fast food joints have 'printable' coupons on their web-sites which they won't contest even if it was printed by a dot matrix printer. Imagine if making a buck was that easy?

So who is accountable? Its doubtful the law will find the originating perp. If an innocent Joe receives an e-mail with a coupon and he uses it... he intends to invoke a coupon, not to defraud... and without illegal intent, the government therefore has no case. Catch a guy with 40,000 coupons in the
trunk of his car, and I suppose you might have another case altogether, but a single person with a single coupon is a tough case to try over a Jarrod approved submarine sandwich, and yet if 50,000 people use this coupon, then that company is out about $250,000.00.

And if an anti-corporation activist goes through your local Walmart with fake UPC stickers covering original UPC codes, does the 80 year old guy who just purchased a $90.00 DVD player for $25.99 get charged with a felony? Nope... no intent. Just a guy walking out of the store feeling lucky.

I know that this information is potentially dangerous, and I do not condone any illegal activities which defraud companies, even if they have replaced store checkers with automated 'do-it-yourself' checkouts. Call this a fault of big corporations trying to save a buck by letting go of half-educated
store checkers and uneducated fast food counter personnel to computers that don't know any better. What this boils down to is UPC (Universal Product Code) is out and education needs to be back in.

Then again maybe it just makes me chuckle... Damn, I'm out of paper. 


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