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Couponing 101: How to Recognize Fake Coupons

Posted: 04/15/13 5:00 AM (Modified: 08/01/14 11:59 AM)

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 or save on the go with Favado! 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!

Old to new | New to old
Aug 21, 2012 06:55 pm
 Posted by  catdam

Wow, this is very helpful. I just purchased a ton of coupons through ebay that a friend recommended me to and could not believe the savings I was going to get. Well, I wind up using some at Walmart and was told they seemed fraudulant. They called the manager and everything and I felt awkard. Even after calling the manager, they still used them, but they really had me thinking about how would I be able to tell if they are fraudulent or not. This article helps a lot, now I am afraid to even use the rest of the coupons I have left. It is a waste of money that I spent to get them, but it would not be worth going to jail over. I don't know if the ones I had were fraudlent or not, but they took them, so I will assume they aren't, but they gave me a hard time about them. I am glad I read this. Thanks for posting.

Aug 30, 2012 07:48 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Couponers should be careful never to pay money for coupons. Only use the coupons you obtain directly from the manufacturer or their authorized distribution channel.

Oct 8, 2012 09:31 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is great, but can you do a follow up post on how to defend your coupons when they ARE legitimate? I had a Wal-Mart cashier cause a huge scene and give me the 3rd degree because she thought I made fake coupons. I was so embarrassed! What do we say to defend ourselves???

Oct 9, 2012 02:26 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

When we are asked about the coupons, it's best to ask to speak to a manager. Jessica

Jul 16, 2013 05:55 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I went to Wal-Mart with a coupon I printed from coupons.com. The coupon was for purchase two Cadbury ice cream bars and gets one for free. It stated it was Wal-Mart only like several of their coupons are for. The clerk called someone in management to help her take the coupon off. She said the patron bought the products, the management person stated that they do not take any coupons for Wal-Mart only. I said that is crazy I have a lot I print from Coupons.com and several say must be purchased at Wal-Mart. She took my coupons and said they were counterfeit. I went back to the site and they have many coupons that say the item is good only at Wal-Mart. Is she right?

Sep 9, 2013 11:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

A coworker gave me a coupon for free Doritos products. I thought it seemed hinky so I googled the UPC on the coupon and got to a site listing fraudulent coupons, and that was one of them.

Don't they scan coupons at stores when you present them? If they're fraudulent, doesn't a red flag come up?

Dec 31, 2013 08:24 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

love it!!!

Apr 28, 2014 09:22 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Some of the Grocery Stores in San Diego County won/t take internet printed coupons anymore, They say they don,t get paid back. Makes an awkward situation for customer to take stuff out of basket or removed from total.

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