What is coupon fraud? There are different facets to how fraud is committed. Manufacturers want to put a stop to coupon fraud because it causes them millions of dollars in losses. Consumers also want to stop coupon fraud because they get caught in the middle when they innocently use a fraudulent coupon in good faith. Even worse than losing the amount offered in the coupon, it is a law that if a customer is caught using a counterfeit coupon, that person can be subject to a hefty fine or even jail time!
- High value counterfeit coupons are created by some crooks who then sell them over the internet. These counterfeit coupons are "bogus" and worth nothing when taken to the register. Consumers are warned against buying coupons and advised to only use authorized coupon websites.
- Make sure your coupon has a UPC number on it unless it is one issued by the store itself. An expiration date has to appear on it as well.
- Be aware that you cannot photocopy and then use manufacturers' coupons. You must present the original ones.
- Do not try to use the coupon for an item not specified on the coupon or a different size or quantity or once it has expired. The manufacturer is usually trying to get customers to try a new product or has other reasons for being very specific about what the coupon can be applied to.
- If a coupon specifies "one per transaction" or "one per customer", you cannot try to use multiple similar coupons to get additional merchandise. If that is not stated, you can use several coupons to get multiple deals.
- Usually you can also use one coupon from a manufacturer and one from the store's ad on the same item. That is the only way you can use two coupons to save money on one item.
- Manufacturers, restaurants, and stores try to protect themselves further by enabling only one download of a coupon via the internet.
- Do not modify a coupon in any way — this is illegal. You cannot change the expiration date or the bar code or anything else.
- Organized coupon fraudsters have found ways to manipulate the bar codes to receive more money than was meant to be given.
- A safer procedure, if you want several coupons for products that you use often, is to ask your family and friends to save them for you as they see them in the Sunday newspaper or in magazines.
Using real coupons from newspapers, magazines, through the mail, in stores' ads, and from reputable websites are a wonderful money saver in this tight economy, but you need to be aware of those you are taking into the store or supermarket.