McDonald's Monopoly Game: Scam or Legitimate Sweepstakes?

The Scandal That Tarnished the Name of the McDonalds Monopoly Sweepstakes

McDonald's Launches Its Largest-Ever Promotion
••• Can You Trust the McDonald's Monopoly Game?. Tim Boyle / Getty Images

Is McDonald's Monopoly Game a Scam or a Legitimate Sweepstakes?

Have you heard that the Monopoly Game at McDonald's is a scam, or rigged so that only McDonald's employees can win the big prizes? Ever wondered if the rumors are true, or if the Monopoly Game gives you legitimate chances to win?"

McDonald's Monopoly Game is not a scam. It's a legitimate sweepstakes with chances to win big prizes worth up to a million dollars.

McDonald's Monopoly gives away lots of other prizes as well, like free food, smaller cash prizes, gift cards, product coupons, and more.

So why does the McDonald's game have a bad reputation?

The McDonald's Monopoly Sweepstakes Scandal:

McDonald's Monopoly Game's good reputation was tarnished by a scandal that took place during the late 90s through the early 2000s.

During that time, McDonald's hired Simon Marketing, Inc. to administrate its sweepstakes. A sweepstakes administrator provides deep expertise in running giveaways while providing additional protection against fraud.

Unfortunately, in this case, an employee at Simon Marketing was corrupt.

From 1995 through 2000, Simon Marketing's security director, Jerome Jacobson, stole the top game pieces from the Monopoly Game, as well as other McDonald's promotions, and sold them or distributed them to people he knew for a share of the loot.

In this way, $13 million dollars were embezzled from McDonald's and denied prizes to rightful winners.

Unexpectedly, a little bit of good came from the scandal. One of the stolen million-dollar game pieces was donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Even after McDonald's realized that the piece had been embezzled, they still honored the donation to help sick children.

Though the scam ran for several years, it eventually fell apart.

The FBI investigated the scandal, and Jacobson and his co-conspirators were caught, convicted, and sent to jail.

Although it was their giveaway, McDonald's was a victim of this scandal and not a perpetrator. No McDonald's employees were involved in the scam, and no problems have surfaced in recent years.

McDonald's Response to the Monopoly Scam

After the scandal came to light, McDonald's fired Simon Marketing and put a number of new security measures in place.

In a press release, McDonald's said:

McDonald's has a rigorous and thorough security protocol in place for running the 2009 McDonald's Monopoly Game at McDonald's, from Game Piece production and application, to secure warehousing, shipping, and distribution in the restaurants. McDonald's security protocol touches every individual associated with the 2009 Monopoly Game at McDonald's.

Some People Do Run McDonald's Monopoly Game Scams, Though:

While the Monopoly game is legitimate, it is a target of sweepstakes scams. For example, a scam that pops up year after year involves game piece trading. Read Beware of McDonald's Monopoly Game Piece Trading Scams for more information.

If It's Not a Scam, Why Don't You Hear About More People Winning the McDonald's Monopoly Game?

The prizes in McDonald's Monopoly Game are legit and distributed to the public.

Every year, thousands of people win smaller prizes like gift cards, free food, and more, but the big prizes are handed out as well.

For an example, check out my interview with a $100,000 McDonald's Monopoly winner.

But even though those big prizes are legitimate, they are not easy to win. The game pieces for the big prizes are very rare indeed. For example, the odds of winning the million-dollar Monopoly prize in 2009 were 1 in more than 542 million. And that's assuming that the one elusive game piece you need for that million dollars isn't lost or thrown away.

To see how close you are to winning a big prize, check out the Rare McDonald's Game Pieces.

Just because the chances of winning a million dollars are extremely long, however, it doesn't mean that the McDonald's Monopoly Game is a waste of time.

Tons of prizes are given away, from free fries to trips and electronics. And if you don't want to buy McDonald's food, you can always send away for free game pieces by mail.

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