A mother-daughter duo managed to scam a multibillion dollar company.
Carrie and Sarah Jones bilked Coca-Cola out of more than $200,000 by manipulating a bottle cap contest and then selling their winnings on eBay, Oregon news site NWCN.com reports. Contest participants entered a code found under their bottle caps on the Coke website to win prizes. It’s still unclear how the Albany, Oreg., mother-daughter team was able to figure out so many winning codes.
“I mean, it boggles the mind that they could single-handedly fool a multi-billion dollar company like Coca Cola," Mike Wood of the Albany police department told NWCN.
A Coca-Cola spokesman declined to comment on the case to The Huffington Post.
The prosecutor in the case argued that the odds were stacked against one city, let alone one household, winning so many prizes, as frustrated contest participants can probably attest. In addition, the contest prohibited one family from winning more than 5 times, a limit prosecutors believe the Jones’ avoided by creating email addresses using other people’s identities, according to the AP.
The two, who pled guilty to computer crime, will have to pay Coca-Cola back to the tune of almost $50,000.
But that could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much they were able to make off the prizes. The Albany police accused the two of claiming thousands of prize codes, including for things like concert and movie tickets, as well as gift cards, according a report from the Albany Democrat-Herald. They then grouped the prize codes together and sold them on eBay.
With eBay's auction format, bidders can sometimes end up paying more than face value for an item -- even a gift card.
Criminals aren't the only ones adept at using the internet to their advantage when it comes to company contests. According to one eBay guide, contest participants can sell any prizes they win from Coke contests, but not the points they redeem from Coke's ongoing "rewards" promotion. In addition, some avid McDonald's Monopoly players have used Craigslist and other websites to trade pieces in an aim to win the game.
Oddly enough, the mother-daughter team isn't the first to rip off a major company through a promotional contest. The FBI arrested 8 people in 2001 for allegedly netting $13 million in fraudulent McDonald’s prizes. The crime ring was charged with fixing the outcome of games like McDonald’s Monopoly by controlling access to the high-prize game pieces, according to the AP.