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Is the McDonalds Monopoly Game a Scam?

The 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 [3], an employee at Simon Worldwide Inc., who ran the promotion; would steal key game pieces (the rare McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces [4]) 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 [5])