Personal Finance 

Is the McDonalds Monopoly Game a Scam?

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Neon Glowing ArchesThe game seems a little too good. You buy some food at McDonald’s and you could potentially win a million dollars. If there’s only one Boardwalk piece, isn’t it a little too tempting for someone to try to steal that piece and collect a cool million? Even if you were so bold as to steal the Boardwalk piece, there are certainly other smaller prizes that would be appealing to win (and not come with so much publicity).

As it turns out, in 2001, the allure of the game was too great for eight people who were arrested for participating in a scam. As the conspiracy unraveled, 51 people would ultimately be indicted for their role in the scheme. The scam was simple, Jerome Jacobson, an employee at Simon Worldwide Inc., who ran the promotion; would steal key game pieces (the rare McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces) and send them to his friends and family. In the McDonald’s Monopoly game, you only need the rare pieces to win as the common pieces are very easy to find. He apparently did this from 1989 to 2001, when he was caught. For his role as the mastermind, he was sentenced to 37 months in prison, pay $13.4 million in restitution, and a $750,000 fine.

So when people talk about scams, that’s the one they’re thinking about. In that scam, no McDonald’s employees were involved and there haven’t been any problems since.

As for the game itself, it doesn’t appear to be a scam as almost every year there’s been a million dollar winner. Last year that winner was Jonathan Kehoe from Wisconsin and in 2009 Brandi Futch of Tennessee took home the top prize. The million dollar prize is an annuity, $50,000 a year for twenty years. As for the smaller prizes, I think they make announcements on their online sites. In the end, McDonald’s is too big a franchise, the content is too publicized, and state governments would never stand for a fraud of this magnitude if it were all a ruse to get people to buy more food.

(Photo: loop_oh)

{ 27 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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27 Responses to “Is the McDonalds Monopoly Game a Scam?”

  1. Scott says:

    Makes you wonder if in the previous years where there has not been a million dollar winner if someone carelessing chucked the winning piece in the garbage…

    • Mark says:

      I think one of the bigger prizes was one by a garbage man one year. He sw a cup on the top of someone’s garbage and pulled the tab to find instant winner.

  2. Amanda says:

    They make more money off the promotion than they are giving away. I know people that eat mcdonalds for breakfast lunch and dinner hoping that they will get the winning pieces. Just what america needs people consuming even more junk so they can get fatter and fatter. yuck.

    • Amber says:

      I buy the game pieces every year hoping to wi and i donate my free foos to people who are starving. This morning i really didnt want to eat thwre because its so disguating but i love to play and i bought a sausage egg mcmuffin for a homeless guy waiting for the bus to omaha.

  3. robert says:

    yeah right i bet the “people who won” were probably doing a scam for money so other people would say wow and start to eat more at mac. trust me the game does not work it even denied me a medium fries now that’s cheap and i don’t go there
    everyday i was just hungry and so was my family and i thought wow they are doing this scam again it’s a scam because think about it people eat more at mac. and that equals fatter people and fatter people need doctors and docs send them to other type of doctors…

  4. Kellyf32 says:

    I think bc I have never won anything playing

  5. Tau Myx says:

    The game seems designed to guarantee that most winning pieces will go into the garbage. Most people don’t know what the winning pieces are, and so won’t realize they have won just by looking at one.

  6. Mike brisendine says:

    I don’t know about the game been a scam but: I was denied my opportunity to win the one million dollar prize by unprofesnal and rude employees at McDonalds.
    On Tuesday October 18th 2011, I went to the McDonalds at 2741 University Blvd W, Kensington, MD 20895 and picked up a sandwich and hash browns, for the Game Pieces. When I got to work, I found out that the hash browns had no game piece on it. I could not make a return trip until today Thursday October 20th 2011. I went in and asked to speak to the manager; one of the lady’s working there walked up and informed me that she was the manager. I explained about the Game Piece not on the hash brown wrapper. She replied we run out, and then started to walk away. I said wait a minute; I PAID FOR YOUR PRODUCT WITH GAME PIECES ON IT AND I DID NOT RECEIVE IT, I feel that I should receive an alternative Game Piece. The lady laughed and walked away. So I walked over to the other end of the counter and ask to speak to her boss, she informed me that there was no boss above her. So I went out to my car and got a pencil to write down her name, because I didn’t believe what she was telling me because she was not wearing a name tag. And in most of my dealings with companies, the mangers have name tags. I asked to have her name. She did not even respond to me, but the girl that was working the drive through window jumped in and said ; she is not going to give you a name and do I have to explain you again that we don’t have no hash brown covers, the truck will not be in until tomorrow. I look at her and said; Excuses me but I was talking with the manager. The drive through girl turns to the so called manager and tells her to take out her phone and threaten me by calling the police, then the manager pulls out her cell phone and look at me and says ; Do I have to call the police. I turned to walk away, then the drive through girl says to the manager loud enough so that I can here it; DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT HE IS A NOBODY, A NOTHING.

    • JM says:

      Same exact thing happened to me…. Read next post. These employees are scaming the customers…..

      • Grandfather_Time says:

        Try explaining that in court. Each individual store gets a set amount of pieces, when they run out, they run out. They do not send any extra pieces to any store. Regardless of what you think, when you placed your order, you asked for hash browns, not a monopoly game piece, therefore, you were not scammed. You got what you asked for. Realize this, there are a set amount of winning pieces. Those amounts change year to year depending on demand and the amount of pieces sold the year before. There is a 1 in 600-something thousand-chance of getting a Park Place piece. This is stated in-store on publibly listed rules and agreements placed somewhere in-store where any customer can walk up and see. If it isn’t placed there, then usually a website with said rules is mentioned on each product that has a piece on it. You were not scammed, you’re just a poor or sore loser. Get over it.

        • Jesus says:

          I have a park place.. I am trying to find the other piece any help would be appreciated to include splitting the winnings…I hardly ever play this….

    • Erik says:

      You are the kind of customer I hated serving when I worked at a food service place.

      It’s a freaking fun promotional game, not life or death situation. Relax dude.

  7. Mike brisendine says:

    sorry i forgot my e-mail address.

  8. JM says:

    I am convinced that in at least three McDonalds I have visited that the employees are scamming the customers. Twice I have bought food just to get the game pieces only to find none attatched. After requesting them, I received the same treatment as reported in other threads. The managers were rude in all circumstances and I am convinced that they are handing out the regular boxes while taking the rest for themselves and friends. I have never seen anything like this and I hope McDonalds does a full investigation – all they have to do is send out some suits and request game pieces after they are told the store ran out. How can they run out and how can they train their management to be so rude? I call for a complete boycott on McDonalds until we get an official response…. This is happening everywhere…

    • Grandfather_Time says:

      Again, stop being a poor, speculative loser. You didn’t win. Get over it.

    • Kevin says:

      Why are you buying McDonalds food just for the game pieces? Put your money into the lottery instead. Better odds with better payouts.

  9. joy says:

    I have the same experience. I ordered a medium drink and I was told that there is no monopoly pieces. Then I complain to the manager and was given another piece from another item.

    This happened twice. Good I always check if there are game pieces or none.

    Maybe these employees are purposely doing this for a reason? I do not know.

    But the manager in this Illinois location is nice. So I am okay.

  10. Omega says:

    It says directly on the rules what items come with game pieces. It ALSO states that if they run out of game pieces, that’s it. They have no obligation to refund you pieces if they do not have them. People purchase the items with the game pieces on them more so they will run out of those quicker. I’ve had a few times where I got a medium Frappe and didn’t get the game pieces, I was disappointed but I actually read the rules beforehand so I understood why.

    The only time I ever eat at McDonalds is the rare craving, or when they are doing Monopoly, just because it’s a fun form of “gambling” for me. I never expect to win anything. I get my food either way and I get game pieces for buying it.

  11. beto says:

    anyone has boardwalk we can split winnings
    i have parkway

  12. Anonymous says:

    If there is no purchase necessary, why do I have to get a large fry or drink to play when I go to the actual store.

  13. Mary says:

    The 2011 game is a damn rip off!! I won a Walmart card and never got it. McDonald’s is all about damn scams to get u to buy their sucky food that puts pounds on a person’s body!!!!

  14. Tim says:

    What is wrong with all these people who HATE mcdonalds? Do you all have a problem because you definately do. No one likes mcdonalds, no one like wendys, no one like burger king, kfc, pizza hut, dominos, ginos, the list goes on and on. I wish every fast food place would just close down permanently so all you ignorant idiots who have to COMPLAIN and COMPLAIN and COMPLAIN and COMPLAIN about everything wouldn’t have anything to BITCH about. I’m sick and sick and sick of everyone CONSTANTLY and CONSTANTLY bashing EVERYTHING!

  15. Tim says:


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