Have you ever had someone email you a coupon that just sounds a little too good to be true? Or maybe you’ve heard that coupons can get you free stuff, so you wonder about the FREE printable coupon that’s circulating?
Today I wanted to share some basic tips about how to identify fraudulent coupons so you can avoid using them!
#1: Consider the source. There are some printable coupon sites I talk about regularly here that are safe to print from. These include Coupons.com, SmartSource, Red Plum, and CouponNetwork. If you’re finding a coupon on a manufacturer’s verified website or Facebook page, you should be good to go, too. But be very wary of coupon links circulating by email or on websites you’re not familiar with. Be particularly wary of pdf coupons that allow unlimited prints!
#2: Consider the value. While you’ll sometimes find very high value coupons (such as for a Facebook promotion), you should definitely question exceedingly high values for printable coupons that you’re not finding on the sites I’ve listed above. For instance, if I were to find a $7 off Huggies coupon or a $11 off Charmin coupon, I’d have all kinds of red flags going up. FREE printable coupons that require no additional purchase are so often found to be fraudulent that most retailers won’t even accept them anymore. Many retailers also now limit the dollar value of internet printable coupons.
(Coupon image from Coupon Information Corporation)
#3: Consider the fine print and other elements. Sometimes fabricated coupons will have elements that seem a bit “off”. For instance, they may have “no expiration date” printed on them or spelling errors or maybe the logo or images just seem a bit odd. However, many fake coupons actually look convincingly real so this is not always a reliable method of identifying a fake! For instance, consider the fraudulent Bertolli coupon below. In this case, the value may be the only thing that makes you go hmmmm.
(Coupon Image from Coupon Information Corporation)
#4: Consider if the coupon is intended for you. This may be more of a “gray” area, but I feel it’s worth mentioning on today’s post. Sometimes you may see a coupon posted that looks like it’s intended for a specific email recipient. Or perhaps you can get a high-value coupon by entering “codes” from purchased product and someone has mysteriously found a bunch of codes that you can input. Again, this is gray area stuff, but it may be worth considering “is this coupon meant for the general public, or as an incentive for a certain person/group of people?”
So how serious is this really? Well let me tell you this is the message that is posted on the Coupon Information Corporation regarding the coupons they’ve identified as counterfeits:
INDIVIDUALS AND INTERNET SITES ATTEMPTING TO REDEEM, TRANSMIT, AUCTION, POST, REPRODUCE, TRANSFER, BARTER OR SELL COUNTERFEIT COUPONS MAY BE SUBJECT TO CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR CIVIL ACTION
This is why it’s so important to make sure you stay in the know about where to get coupons legitimately and that you take the time to educate yourself about coupon fraud. I’d hate for anyone to unwittingly redeem a fraudulent coupon and then either find themselves in a mess or even just feel badly about it after the fact.
Here are three things you can do to prevent coupon fraud:
#1. Stop buying your coupons from ebay! I know I’ve taken flack for this in the past and not every coupon blogger out there will agree with me, but I really can’t stress this one enough. Think about it. If you were fabricating coupons how would YOU get them circulating? I’ve personally heard from some of you who have purchased coupons just wanting a good deal only to question the validity of the coupons received. Don’t waste your money in an effort to save it. For more information on why you should not buy your coupons, please read the FAQ section at Coupon Information Corporation along with this informative piece at Jill Cataldo’s site.
#2. If you have a doubt, don’t use it! If you have a coupon you have that you’re not sure exactly where it came from or you have any concern, just don’t use it. You can also check out the list of Counterfeit Coupons over at the CIC to see if it’s been ID’d as a counterfeit. (Just use the “find” tool on your Internet Browser to do a search or download to Excel and search that way.)
#3. Help fellow newbie couponers out. Remember that we were all new at this once and help your fellow newbie couponer friends out. If we each took the time to help a friend learn the correct way to use coupons I think a lot of good can be done. I have this belief that a fair amount of fraud is unintentional – someone wanting a good deal and not knowing any better. I think as concerned couponers this is the fraud we can really do something about and help the coupon community, retailers, and manufacturers.
I would love to hear from you if you have stories, questions, or comments on this topic! What else would you add to my list of how to identify fraudulent coupons?