How to Spot a Fraudulent Coupon

Coupon Fraud is a huge problem that costs retailers (and consumers) to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars (from CIC)– When fraudulent coupons are redeemed or when coupons are redeemed on products they are not intended for, the store may not get reimbursed which means they lose money and some of those losses are placed back on honest consumers in the form of higher prices and greater restrictions.  (Anyone else had trouble redeeming a legitimate printable coupon lately??  I sure have!)

For example, recently there was an $8 Huggies coupon circulating in this area (and others) via email–an $8 off one Huggies (any size) coupons sounds to good to be true and it was.  The coupon was on a word document with 8 copies of the coupon available for a total discount of $64.  So if even just 1 person went to Walmart and redeemed these the store is losing $64 off one transaction.  If 10 people did it that’s $640 and I am sure a lot more people than that went out to use these.  Now probably not everyone who redeemed these actually knew they were fake so here are some ways you can spot a counterfeit coupons to avoid fraud which is a crime.


The following are adapted from the Coupon Information Center


1.  Get your coupons from regular coupon sources including the Sunday paper, authorized coupon sites (such as coupons.com, redplum.com, smartsource.com, and couponnetwork.com), and directly from manufacturer’s sites and Facebook pages.

2.  Do not download and print coupons that have been saved into forums or on websites.  Some retailers still release printable coupons in pdf format and these should never be saved to your computer.  (I hope that companies will stop releasing these types of coupons to protect themselves, but in the meantime I try to stick to the 2 prints per computer standard).  This goes back to the first point–If you can’t find the coupon on it’s original source it is very likely that the manufacturer no longer intends for it to be distributed.

3.  Coupons you obtain via email as attachments and images are most likely fraudulent (this does not include coupon links that take you to a manufacturer sites or bricks coupon link).


4.  Most coupons released by manufacturers will not be visible on your computer screen.  (You can’t see the actual coupon until it prints).  There are also other security features including watermarking and individual veri-fi codes.  Again, there are a few exceptions like the occasional pdf coupon.

5.  Don’t pay money for coupons.  I have to admit that this is the one rule on their site I feel is a gray area, but I completely understand why it’s on the list– Buying and selling coupons violates the manufacturer’s terms of the coupon.  Many sites that are selling coupons may have obtained these coupons illegally and they include legal language that says you are paying for the clippers time to gather and clip the coupons, but that doesn’t make it a legal business.

6.  You can view a current list of known fraudulent coupons on the CIC website HERE if you suspect a coupon is fraudulent.  If you receive a coupon you think may be fraudulent, but is not on the list you can find out by forwarding the email to bud@couponinformationcenter.com.

This post is not intended to point fingers or guilt anyone–It is meant to be informational so you will know how to recognize a fraudulent coupon.  If you are interested in reading more there is an article by Jill Cataldo on her site HERE that is a good read as well as an article about considerate couponing on the CIC site HERE

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