The daughter plead guilty to felony computer crime and identity theft, and the mother to felony computer crime. Neither will serve jail time, but the two will be on probation for two years, and will pay $48,000 in restitution to Coca Cola.
I'm very glad to hear about cheaters being caught and penalized, because some people seem to think that cheating sweepstakes is some kind of a game. Cheating is not a game, and it's unfair to the company sponsoring the sweepstakes and to the people who play by the rules. It can be harmful to the entire sweepstakes hobby. And now we know, it can also be illegal.
Here's the original article from last July:
Pair Accused of Cheating Coca Cola Sweepstakes Out of $200,000 in PrizesFrom May through September of 2011, Coca Cola gave people the chance to win tens of thousands of prizes in the 2011 Text Twist Win Sweepstakes. Now, a mother-daughter pair in Albany, Oregon has been accused of cheating that sweepstakes out of up to $200,000 in prizes, according to a news report.
The game worked by issuing sweepstakes codes under the cap of bottles of Coca Cola products (there was also an online portion of the game). You could text your code to Coca Cola and, if it was a winner, you would receive gift codes free movies, discounts on flights, free concert tickets, and more. The accused mother and daughter, who were both unemployed, then turned around and sold the prizes they received for cash.
There was a limit of two wins per person and five wins per household. To get around that limit, the pair created email addresses under fake names, including the president's. This was easier to do, since the prizes weren't actually mailed to a physical address.
Coca Cola has verified $40,000 worth of stolen prizes, and they suspect that Carrie and Sarah Jones could have racked up $200,000 in stolen goods. These are prizes that would otherwise have been won by legitimate entrants, cheating sweepstakes fans who played by the rules out of the rewards they deserved.
So far, it is unknown how the pair were able to get so many winning codes, but investigation is continuing. Meanwhile, the mother and daughter are both accused of criminal counts of aggravated theft, identity theft and computer crime.
Every so often, a big sweepstakes gets hacked, and cheaters walk away with prizes. The scandal surrounding McDonald's Monopoly Game is one example. Taco Bell had a problem with cheaters gaming one of their sweepstakes. And in 2010, Kmart had to suspend a sweepstakes because of cheating.
But that doesn't mean that it's not worth entering sweepstakes. I personally won through Coke's Text Twist Win Sweepstakes and many others over the years. While cheaters' methods get more sophisticated, so do the tools to catch them. And most sweepstakes are able to catch and eliminate cheaters' entries without them affecting the giveaway.
What do you think about the scam? Do stories like these discourage you from entering sweepstakes? Do you think the punishment fit the crime? Click on the "comments" link below to share your thoughts.
Stay up to date with Contests & Sweepstakes by signing up for my Sweepstakes Newsletter.
Get answers to your sweepstakes questions in the Sweepstakes Forum.
Download the free Sweepstakes Toolbar