Couple Bilks Target For $10,000 With Fake Coupons And Social Engineering

Bad consumer. Bad bad bad. — BEN POPKEN

    “A couple were arraigned Thursday in Livonia on charges they made fake coupons to steal thousands of dollars from Target stores.

    Suzanne Celeskey, 49, of Livonia and Stephen Najor, 39, of Clarkston used her home computer to create bogus coupons, which didn’t scan properly at Target checkout counters, Livonia Police Lt. Gregory Winn said Thursday.

    Winn said Celeskey would make a scene, and cashiers would override their computers and give the discounts. Later, the pair returned the items without the receipts and got back money equal to the full prices.

    Since May, they obtained as much as $10,000 from Target stores in the Detroit area, according to Winn, who explained that investigators for the Minneapolis-based chain uncovered the scam with surveillance tapes and by tracking Celeskey’s credit card.

    In 16th District Court, Celeskey and Najor were charged with using a computer to commit a crime, a 7-year felony, and identity theft and larceny, both 5-year felonies.”

Couple charged with bilking Target stores of $10,000 [Detroit Free Press] (Thanks to something_amazing!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    thats funny. My target refuses to pay me back without a receipt. Its either a exchange or store credit.

    Annoyed the hell out of me too because I wanted to take back christmas lights for my father who had the receipt and they said no.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    Yeah, target has a whole separate room for making returns, discrete from the rest of the checkout system. The people who work returns do nothing else all day. How is it that a couple with no receipt was able to scam target for such a large amount of money?

    The only thing I can think of is that they bought a bunch of things that were small ticket items. Sometimes if an item is under $20 they’ll cash it out. That’s a lot of effort though for the work involved.

  3. weave says:

    They did this 1,000 times and no one got suspicious until the 999th time?

  4. MeOhMy says:

    My Target won’t give you jack without a receipt!

  5. I’m curious to know how they got an “Identity theft” charge. As for returning items without the receipt I imagine they did it the same way that they did it with the fake coupons– raised a fit everytime they returned something.

  6. d0x says:

    How did they get money back without a receipt? I work at Target and the policy is no receipt= store credit IF YOUR LUCKY.

    Also why did these idiots use their own CC when they could have easily bought some pre-paid credit cards with cash, that would have made tracking them alot harder.

  7. saintjohnson says:

    DeeJay, Dox, S_A: Its because they’re old.
    And by old, I mean in their 40s/50s and probably look 60something. If you’re a certain age and carry yourself a certain way, you’ll get away with it.

    The little old lady said, “Deary, I’m much to old see receipts, let alone keep up with them. I dropped a receipt on the kitchen floor and couldn’t find it until my daughter visited me a month later.”

  8. Hoss says:

    Glad you posted this — illustrates perfectly that the customer isn’t “always right”.

    FYI — print something on a color printer (such as these forged coupons), the printer will create a nearly invisable identification code (a group of yellow dots) that can be traced back to the exact printer — every page gets this code. Printer companies do this in cooperation with feds to control currency forgery. (This was described recently on CNBC.)

  9. sam says:

    From working in retail years ago (and my mother was actually a manager of a small retail store before that), I learned that, at least in some states (since it’s governed by state law), stores may be required to give refunds if demanded by a customer even if there is a “store policy” denying such allowance.

    Now, 99% of consumers follow store policy, particularly if it’s clearly displayed, but from the description, it sounds like these were customers who were willing to make a scene, and most retail workers just aren’t paid enough to deal with that sh*t. so they’ll cave.

    I only remember this because my mother had one particular customer who was ALWAYS attempting to return stuff in violation of her store’s policy, and she (my mom) actually researched it to find out how much leeway she had.

  10. fishfucerk says:

    Great story about a more sophiscated scam pulled on Home Depot here:

  11. $10,000? from target? do they sell cars over there?

  12. ElPresidente408 says:

    I love rejecting customer coupons when I know they’re worthless. They start making a scene and I gladly make them and everyone behind them wait the 5 min before a manager finally shows up. The look on their face when the manager agrees we can’t take the coupon is priceless.

  13. fishfucerk:

    Awesome story. That was well written and insightful…

  14. Skeptic says:

    The fraud deserves jail time but we should all be worried that they were charged with “using a computer to commit a crime”.

    The fact that they used a computer to commit the coupon part of the fraud is immaterial. The key to the fraud wasn’t really the forged coupons, they didn’t fool the stores computer system. The key was the social engineering used to get the clerk to override the fact that they didn’t scan.

    The prosecutor used a meaningless add on charge that he could use against anybody accused of a huge range of offenses. Is she be charged with “using a pen to commit a crime,” “using paper to commit a crime,” using a car to commit a crime,” “using words to commit a crime,” and “using verbal utterances to commit a crime?” All of those offenses would make just as much sense in this case.

  15. Hoss says:

    Possibly Skeptic, Detriot Free Press used this wording as a convenient abreviation for some other charge. After all — “using a computer to commit a crime” could mean bashing a porn-laced refreshed laptop over the head of a Apple dealer in addition to many other things.

  16. i’m trying to think of a noteworthy criminal prosecution case that hasn’t had multiple seemingly pointless add-on charges. i think the idea is to increase the potential penalty as much as possible so that even in the event of a settlement, plea, or good behavior, an “acceptable” level of punishment is administered.

  17. Solo says:

    “Thats funny. My target refuses to pay me back without a receipt. Its either a exchange or store credit.”

    1. Accept store credit, usually in the form of gift card.
    2. Buy item that most closely match the amount on the given card.
    3. return item, presenting receipt and requesting cash.

    It may not work if the receipt mentions the item was paid with a gift card, in that case, they can regenerate a gift card, and you’re stuck with buying something from Target after all…

  18. moejuda says:

    I worked for Target about 6 years ago, and I know at that time we would accept almost anything for cash. I distinctly remember instances where we accepted items that were old or were unlikely to have been Target products in the first place.

    Maybe it has changed since then, but the whole system always seemed ripe for fraud.

  19. Triteon says:

    The link and article fishfucerk provided needs to be archived for those times when too many readers complain about return policies. We may not like the HD’s, W*M’s and other big-boxes of the world, but behavior like that personifies the proverbial bad apple.
    Great article, and thanks for the link!

  20. phrygian says:

    Solo — If the receipt is from a major chain (like Target), it will display that the form of payment was a giftcard. When this happens, the refund almost always is given back to the shopper on another giftcard. I’m going off of experience with a few different stores (including Target).

  21. brandguy20 says:

    Yeah the policy for target is even fresher now, the system can tell if the item was returned with a DL now and when you try and get cash for it it will only allow you to exchange the item again or get a gift card if its under a certain amount. Changes in the return system are happening almost every 6 months now due to people trying to get that extra buck.

  22. tealblue says:

    I’m a neighbor of her’s…I can tell you that I will Never believe what I read in the newspapers from here on out…….it’s fiction not fact, and any facts that were there have been turned around. Like I did, she printed coupons off the internet…..that was the crime…she never through a fit for a return either….ahe never stole a thing…Capt. Winn and whomever is his Supervisor and the Newspaper should be in court for False accusations. I really thought that there was truth in what is written for the public to read…couldn’t be more wrong.

  23. mtingen says:

    i work for target and what they do is purchase the item with a charge card and purchase items with coupons and then return them and do a receipt look up with the charge card it was originally purchased on thus fooling the system and getting a full refund. fraud any way you look at it we are investigating the same thing going on in my store