back to article Student accused of posting bogus coupons to 4chan

A computer science student has been charged with fraud and counterfeiting for allegedly posting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bogus coupons on 4chan and other websites. Lucas Townsend Henderson, 22, of Lubbock, Texas, was charged with wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods in a criminal complaint unsealed …

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WTF?

Oh, come on

/b/tards do this all the time. Posting fake coupons on 4chan is about as common as posting reasonably normal porn - doesn't happen all the time, but often enough. And really, just because he made these files, he's guilty of fraud?

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FAIL

Oh, come on

Con men do this all the time. Counterfeiting money is about as common as ripping off old ladies - doesn't happen all the time, but often enough. And really, just because someone printed money, he's guilty of counterfeiting?

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't make it right. Doesn't matter if you're printing money or coupons, you are making that paper available for others to use. Even if he never used one of these coupons in his life, he'd still be guilty.

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Yes!

It's not quite as obviously stealing as if he'd busted open a cash register, but under the law, it's still stealing.

On the other hand, I suspect he'd never have heard a peep from the FBI if he weren't so fucking stupid (and so fucking insecure that he wanted approval from /b/tards -- I mean how sad is that?) as to post a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of the things.

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Stop

Why what do you define as fraud?

He created and posted coupons that gave huge discounts that were never authorised or valid. That is fraud no matter how you cut it.

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Pirate

I really hope

he also posted complete instructions on how to make your own. Teach a man to fish etc.....

Seems more like a latter day Robin Hood to me. But won't someone think of poor little P & G?

Silly sod though forgetting to use TOR after being so careful.

The only people guilty of fraud are those who actually used the coupons. He may well have committed another crime, but I doubt if its fraud.

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Latter-day Robin Hood, that's a good one!

Because people with computers and sufficient leisure to waste it on 4chan are *just like* people who are forced on pain of death to surrender so much of the crops they themselves have grown that they don't have enough left to live on. Well spotted.

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Anonymous Coward

but wait a mo

Surely, posting coupons in itself didn't give any discounts.

Presumably the store/retailer whatever GAVE the DISCOUNT at point of sale?

If the store/retailer hadn't approved of the coupon, why did it then accept same?

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At a guess...

...I'd say it's because, instead of having a list in their POS system of every coupon everywhere and who it's from and what it's for and what it's worth -- something which, given how many coupons there are everywhere, seems like it'd be an impressive trick -- stores instead use systems which read the barcodes on the coupon (there always seem to be two; I'd assume one identifies the product and the other encodes information about what the coupon is worth) and apply the discount, and then they settle up the coupons with the manufacturers at the end of the month or whatever period.

Because, seriously? If it didn't work something like that, if every cash register in every store knew about every legitimate coupon -- which is pretty much what you appear to be expecting -- then how do you think coupon fraud would even exist?

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WTF?

Coupons, products, stock...it's all too hard!

Are you seriously saying that you don't believe that a POS system should be able to have coupon validity information uploaded and do a basic check that the coupon is in fact valid (offer exists, is still current, product on the coupon is in the current order)? By your logic, the companies shouldn't even be able to track the products they sell - there are so many and they are bought from so many companies!

Won't Someone think of the poor databases trying to store all this data!

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Badgers

@AC 09:03

There are still numerous shops that don't use *any* form of POS. It may be against the shopkeeper's best interest long-term to do so (because POS can automate or at least accelerate an awful lot of stock management tasks) but the cost of implementation is often such that smaller businesses can't afford to bring in the system (or are not aware of suitable affordable options, or are not offered credit schemes to suit their financial circumstances).

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Pint

If *I* were doing it...

I'd add some kind of cryptographic hash to the coupons. That way, you'd need to know the key to make anything but a copy of coupon that's already been legitimately created. So you could make as many "5-cent off a bag of Doritos" coupons as you want, but you'd be very hard pressed to come up with a "95 cent off a bag of Doritos" coupon without knowing the crypto secret.

//Anyone want a coupon for a free pint?

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Really?

Using them is clearly fraud, but just creating and distributing them?

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Oh please

I'm just surprised the vouchers can be used for anything other than extremely disturbing pornography, given where they're being posted.

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FAIL

@Using them is clearly fraud, but just creating and distributing them?

good point.

You win this bundle of counterfeit notes I just made

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manufacturing and distribution?

The punk and his parents need to be glad you aren't his defense attorney, who will be happy that they are only charging him with fraud instead of manufacturing and distributing materials to engage in an interstate conspiracy to defraud a major consumer company. That's the sort of thing that get you up on RICO charges right quick.

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Yes, that is what I'm seriously saying

"Are you seriously saying that you don't believe that a POS system should be able to have coupon validity information uploaded and do a basic check that the coupon is in fact valid[?]"

I am indeed so saying. If it were more cost-effective to do that than to bust people who commit major fraud, like the /b/tard idiot under discussion, and eat the low-level stuff as the cost of doing business -- which it is; keeping customers happy is a requirement of doing business -- then don't you think that's what they'd be doing?

Your dribbling excuse for a 'logical' argument does not follow; there's an obvious, overriding business need to keep track of inventory, and far less of one to keep track of every single coupon in existence, which would require a lot more new infrastructure than I think you're imagining.

How, for example, do you see the coupon database info being kept reliably up to date? If it isn't, you will certainly end up sooner or later with a situation where a coupon gets printed in some magazine with eight-figure readership, everybody cuts it out and brings it to the store, and then it gets rejected at the register because the store's coupon database is a couple of days behind and doesn't know about that coupon yet. Pissing off customers by screwing them over something that's no fault of their own is a great way to lose customers.

And even if you leave aside that scenario, why expect stores and manufacturers to implement a coupon-validation system that'll cost them more than they're losing to coupon fraud? That's just dumb.

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Keeping track of EVERY coupon?

That's the sort of thing that got the UK's National Identity Register quite rightly derided by near enough everyone outside of New Labour's brainwashed elite. Well, that and the awful privacy and freedom issues.

Given how many coupons are created by how many manufacturers for how many products EVERY SINGLE DAY, you would need the mother of all databases to keep track of it all. Hell, I doubt even Google would be able to keep up. Then you'd need to link that all into various disparate EPOS systems used by various disparate and often-competing businesses.

Then you need to prevent it from falling victim of fraudsters and other black hats.

I think the phrase here would be "good fucking luck".

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Anonymous Coward

As I understand this

This kid could fake(*) coupons that were honoured at stores and he posted them online.

To quote Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon"

Not that I'd advocate breaking the law but with a bit of restraint he could have saved himself a small fortune. Instead he goes for glory and fluffs it.

(*) I'm assuming these were coupons with barcodes that have the discount encoded in them and not just a picture of a product with 20p off, otherwise where's the IT angle?

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Re: As I understand this

Possibly it's his use of TOR to hide his identify.

Followed by his failure to use TOR which is when he got caught... much deserved FAIL

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Yeah

they are barcoded ones. For a while last year there were tons of these threads on 4chan discount things like Monster energy drinks by stupid margins too. They looked 'legit' ish but there was no way they were.. one ounce of common sense is all it takes to smell something fishy given the barcode and issuing company. Smart kid tho.

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Barcode

That's probably what it was. Faking these is not very hard, all you need is to read the code of legit coupons and feed similarly-formatted information to GNU's barcode program (or similar). Then stick the result on a reasonably legit-looking background. I would say, 5 minutes top, including printing (assuming you have a reader or know how the info is formatted).

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Anonymous Coward

Urk...

--- 7.00 off a 40 OZ bag of hershey's kisses,” a Zoklet.net user with the ID of Anonymous123 wrote in a July 18 message. “Think about it. You can give someone special around 8x the chocolate you might normally be able to get them for the normal price"

As a Brit who has tasted Hershey's kisses, they would be the last thing I would give to someone I wanted to be on the good side of!

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Few in the US know real chocolate

The best we do over here is the Cadbury stuff that's sold over here -- made in Hershey factories, but apparently under some very close supervision in order to make sure that what they produce doesn't fail to live up to the Cadbury name. I doubt it's exactly identical to what they sell over there, but judging by the fact that it doesn't taste like flavored paraffin, I suspect it's a lot closer than otherwise.

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Anonymous Coward

Flavoured paraffin?

With all due respect, good sir, Hersheys chocolate tastes like a mixture of vomit and destroyed soul. Mainly vomit.

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Anonymous Coward

US Chocolate ...

... tasted good enough for me to put on a stone first time I encountered it.

Okay, that was the chocolate, trail mix, carnitas, margaritas, carne asada, California burritos, etc etc.

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Oh, yeah, it's not like we don't do good food

Lots of different kinds of good food, even -- you can find something delicious without even trying pretty much everywhere in the US, even New England if you can persuade them not to boil everything to death first. (Fortunately, there's no need to try being nice to people there, because they never reciprocate; you are therefore free to open negotiations with a shotgun, which I strongly recommend as I've found a crowbar just doesn't sufficiently impress.)

It's just that we seem to kind of suck at chocolate -- either it's Hershey's, or it's some hand-crafted concoction of pure organic cacao and free-range peacock's scrotum that costs seventy dollars a gram and tastes like something you'd scrape off the sole of your shoe. Or it's something worse than Hershey's, which in terms of quality is actually fair-to-middling among American chocolate manufacturers -- but I'll not horrify you with tales of *cheap* American chocolate.

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re: Flavoured paraffin?

LOL! Nice one!

Having also tried the kisses (I was forced to by an American friend. She force feed them to a room full of us Brits and just couldn't understand the unanimous verdict). I'm starting to wonder about how it compares to another hideous form of "chocolate" that has been described to me by a Polish friend. Apparently it was something the Eastern block had to endure before the wall came down. My friend refers to it as communist chocolate which, she said, contained 0% cocoa, or maybe less!

No idea where I'd find some of that now. It would be funny if the USA and USSR were both eating similar brown vomit flavoured paraffin.

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Re: Few in the US know real chocolate

"make sure that what they produce doesn't fail to live up to the Cadbury name."

Well that wouldn't be difficult.

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FAIL

Cadbury's in US

Err... YUCK!!! I made the mistake of buying Cadbury's chocolate during a trip to the US ~15years ago. It doesn't taste the same as the real (UK) Cadbury's. (Although it's probably better than Hershey's).

Fail icon, for US chocolate...

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Happy

Correct

And that taste comes from the milk that Hershey's used to use... when pasteurised milk started to be used, the customers complained that Hershey's didn't taste the same, so the company let the milk go 'off' a bit before pasteurising and using it.

Tried Hershey's once, never again. Chocolate from the European continent only for me (and yes, that excludes the palm oil bars from Cadbury's too).

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Happy

US Chocolate.

I'm fairly sure that I've heard in a TV documentary about Hersheys that the reason why US chocolate tastes so bad (or unique, as they put it) is because in earlier days, it was shipped around the US by rail in unrefrigerated boxcars in high temperatures, so by the time it got to it's destination, it was seriously past it's best.

People in small US towns across the US, being told that Chocolate was the height of confectionery in Europe ate it anyway, and got used to the taste.

When distribution got better, people complained that it did not taste the same, and so it was re-formulated to deliberately taste the way it does.

This could be an apocryphal story, but I believed it at the time.

What I found hilarious was a declaration on the packaging of some Peppermint Patties that came from the US that stated they are a low-fat food, which is true (only a very thin layer of dark 'chocolate' on them), but as they are about 60% refined sugar, the statement really is designed to mislead the US population about it's suitability as part of their diet.

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re: US chocolate

All these posts and no one mentions Ghiradelli? It's neither expensive nor rare... Godiva is also easy to find (though pricier).

I wouldn't rank either of these as high as imports like Valrhona or Green & Black's, but still, there's more out there than Hersey's and Mars.

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High sugar = high fat

Sugar is converted into fat by the body.

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Yuck!

I'd sooner eat a selection Whizzo Chocolate Company crunchy frog, Ram's Bladder Cup (garnished with lark's vomit) cockroach cluster, anthrax ripple and spring surprise than eat Hersheys.

Herpes chocolate kisses are only marginally worse that the "peanut butter cups" that my work mates insist on bring back from merkinland, a hideous combination of salt, sugar and peanuts.

eh.. didn't the EU want "British chocolate" classified as vegi choc (due to high proportion of vegetable fat instead of coca butter) a few years ago?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes to Ghiradelli.

But from the Hershey's stable, Heath Bars and Reese's Cups are tasty enough to satisfy the munchies. Perhaps your skunk, lovingly hand-reared by hippies as it is, has something to do with that though.

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Anonymous Coward

"a hideous combination of salt, sugar and peanuts."

You want to try Trader Joe's Salty, Sweet & Nutty. No really. You do.

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Happy

@flavored paraffin

mmmmmm paraffin.... uh uh uhuh

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Silver badge

@Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

Yup, you're right, the EU did indeed mumble something about UK chocolate not containing enough cocoa. I don't know what happened to that, we probably just ignored them, we tend to do that. They're a strange lot over there in Euroland and they come up with some odd ideas being cut off from us for so long. Who would have thought that 24 miles of water could have such an effect on them :o)

Anyway, Euroland does indeed have some superb choccy, although having partaken in an office test where we had squares of choccy with increasing levels of cocoa, only females seem to be able to endure above 75%. All us guys were pulling faces by that point and reaching for the "weaker" stuff.

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Silver badge

I'm a 'Merkin and actually fond of Hershey's.

Grandfather actually worked in the factory. There's far worse available here on the American market. So much worse that I've thrown it away when its been given to me by friend or after I've mistakenly purchased it as a gift.

The reason for the specific taste of Hershey's chocolate is that old man Hershey went to Europe and worked in one (some?) of the chocolate factories there. He kept switching jobs to see different parts of the process so he could make his own. He was found out before he had the whole recipe. Not sure how he made it out, but when he got back here he took what he had gotten and guessed at the rest.

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Worse than Hershey's

"So much worse that I've thrown it away when its been given to me by friend or after I've mistakenly purchased it as a gift."

Ah. Palmer's?

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Clarification: this paraffin ain't that paraffin

Please note that, being USian, when I said 'paraffin' I had in mind the wax commonly used for canning, food manufacture, and lots of other things. The liquid fuel y'all probably thought I was referring to is, in the US, known as kerosene.

While I don't doubt that flavored kerosene would be a remarkable, if unpleasant, experience, that definitely wasn't the substance with which I intended to compare Hershey's chocolate.

Thank you.

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@Luke

yes and no. At the point of consumption, it has little to no fat, so qualifies as a low fat food, and definitely will not contain cholesterol (one of the reasons to eliminate saturated fat). But is seriously bad for the everyone except for the dentist!

Actually, conventional food science says that sugar is only converted into fat if there is a surplus of energy foods in the diet. If there is not enough other energy sources, it will be used to power the body. Still, it's not likely that someone consuming peppermint patties is short of calories in the rest of what they eat!

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Anonymous Coward

So much for 7 proxies

lol

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I'm confused

He posted some dodgy coupons on a dodgy website where eveyone knew they were counterfeit

How is this fraud? at most it would be trademark infringement or possibly incitement as no one could have been in any doubt as to the validity of the coupons.

Why has moneymakingexpert orany of the other voucher sites not been approached for the many voucher their members have posted?

If I was to scan an image of a bank note and post it to 4chan would I also be commiting fraud?

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Anonymous Coward

@Ac RE: Confused

Yes, you are confused. Very confused.

It is fraud because it matches the definition of "fraud"

It may also be trademark infringement but the main crime is fraud. If I shot you with a cheap Russian pistol that had "Smith & Wesson" badly printed on it the filth would charge me with murder not trademark infringement. Equally so for incitement.

With moneymakingexpert or any of the "reputable" coupon sites the point is that there exists a valid [web based] coupon that both the retailers and suppliers intend to honour. The websites in question are just making it easier to find said coupons.

Not sure about the banknote - IIRC you may fall foul of specific laws if you scan and post banknotes - particularly in the US. However if you made counterfeit notes available, through any means, you would most certainly be committing a crime. Probably best if you phrase your question a little more intelligently if you want a definitive answer. Just sayin'

So yes, on balance, you are confused.

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Copyright infringement

"Not sure about the banknote - IIRC you may fall foul of specific laws if you scan and post banknotes"

UK banknotes now carry a copyright notice. There may be an argument that counterfeiting requires the physical reproduction of a note, but a digital scan would certainly infringe copyright. US currency in my possession does not feature such a notice.

Long ago, a newspaper in California printed a monochrome picture of a forged 20 dollar bill to illustrate an article about forgeries (a dumb idea in itself) and there were multiple instances of people cutting the picture out of the paper and trying to pass it.

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Boffin

US currency copyright

Under US law, the US government isn't allowed to claim copyright on things it produces. Although it can get around that by having a subcontractor make the design, then assign the copyright to the government.

I guess that the US currency is designed by the government directly - in that case it's not copyrightable.

In the UK the laws are different, the government routinely claims Crown Copyright on it's work.

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FAIL

If I was to scan an image of a bank note

Allow me to draw your attention to this fine article which indicates why your cunning plan is doomed to fail:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/01/15/adobe_anticounterfeiting_code_trips_up/

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You can try scanning a bank note.

However on many scanners, it'll get halfway through and then complain that you're not allowed to scan that. Some will, some won't, but you don't know until you've bought the thing and tried it.

I've been told it's the same with printers, but I've only ever seen it in action with a scanner. Kinda creepy, really.

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FAIL

wire fraud

"Wire fraud, in the United States Code, is any criminally fraudulent activity that has been determined to have involved electronic communications of any kind, at any phase of the event. The involvement of electronic communications adds to the severity of the penalty, so that it is greater than the penalty for fraud that is otherwise identical except for the non-involvement of electronic communications. As in the case of mail fraud, the federal statute is often used as a basis for a separate, federal prosecution of what would otherwise have been a violation only of a state law."

If he'd have kept it to himself he would have been a lot better off. He wanted to be Johnny Big Biscuits Hacker so he played himself going for glory.

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