With the rise in internet couponing there has been a rise in fraudulent coupons as well. While it is important to know what a fraudulent coupon looks like, it's even more important to know what a real coupon looks like. If you're around the real thing long enough, it won't be hard to recognize a fake.
If you aren't sure about a coupon, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is anything in life really free? Well, yes, but as of right now, companies are not offering printable coupons for free products. Instead companies offer those types of promotions in the form of a rebate or a snail mail coupon that you have signed up to receive. Even if you have printed a coupon for a 'free' product, many local stores have stopped taking them due to fraud. Therefore, if all your coupons are for free products and are printed from the internet, they're likely fraudulent and will cost the store money if you use them.
2. Does the coupon have an expiration date? Almost all coupons have an expiration date especially if they are internet coupons. If you find an internet printable coupon without an expiration date, it is more than likely fraudulent especially if that coupon offers a ‘free’ product. Both of those factors are signs that your coupon is likely a fake.
3. Is the coupon for an unreasonable amount? Is the coupon $10 off the purchase of one bottled water? If the value of the coupon is strangely large in comparison to the price of the actual product then it's likely a fake. Notice the picture above, that coupon would have had a value of $44! How many coupons have you seen worth that much?
4. What type of coupon is it? Is the coupon a .pdf file? Coupons that come in the form of a .pdf file or even a .jpeg picture can be altered and therefore could be fraudulent. There are exceptions to this rule, the main one being if you find the coupon on a manufacturers website. While rare, some companies still do offer coupons in this format and those are completely legit.
The coupons that come in the form of .pdf files that are fraudulent typically have the other elements I’ve described in this post such as no expiration date and/or they are for totally free products. And, they are normally sent via e-mail from friends not companies.
5. How did you receive the coupon? Was the coupon e-mailed to you or did you print it directly from a coupon site? Most e-mailed coupons tend to be fraudulent unless they are e-mails directing you to print the coupon off from a legitimate site or the manufacturer’s site or is a promotion you signed up for. If you do not recognize the promotion or if it is sent to you from a friend of a friend, just delete the e-mail.
Keep in mind using fraudulent coupons at the grocery store is the same as stealing straight from the register. If you wouldn't take money out of the register then make sure you're not using fake coupons either. Coupon fraud is illegal and hurts not just the store but couponers as well. If a store experiences too much coupon fraud, they change their policies and restrict legitimate coupon users.
Don't get so nervous that you don't use coupons, the majority of the coupons you print are likely just fine. In fact, I never saw a fake coupon until I started this business.
The most important thing is to make sure you use legit websites to get your coupons. On MoneySavingQueen.com, we take this issue very seriously and are extremely careful with each post we make. You can trust our posts and the sites we recommend as well.
If you're looking for coupons, stick to manufacturer websites and well known websites such as Coupons.com, Redplum.com and Smartsource.com. To find a list of fraudulent coupons right now, visit the Coupon Information Corporation.
More than anything, get to know the real thing and recognizing a fake will be easy!
Check out our news segment below and the recent coupon ring bust: