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Saturday, June 29, 2013
Have you ever been browsing the Internet and found a coupon that seemed too good to be true? Chances are, it probably was.
Counterfeit coupons are a valid problem. Luckily, there are a few things to tip you off that a coupon might be fake.
Is the dollar amount higher than the usual cost of the product, or is the coupon offering the product free without any additional purchase or rebate? Those are two of the most common traits of counterfeit coupons.
Additionally, it’s rare that a retailer or restaurant will post a coupon in PDF form, which means it can be printed an unlimited number of times. If you find that a coupon is printable only via PDF, try tracing the link back to the company’s website or Facebook page. Most printable coupons can be printed directly from companies’ online sites or through a coupon-printing service like Coupons.com.
Of course, you shouldn’t be too quick to trust Facebook pages. Anyone can create a Facebook page.
If you’ve found a coupon on a page but are unsure whether it’s legitimate, look for a blue check mark beside the page name. That check mark indicates that the page has been verified and officially represents the company, product or person it’s registered as.
If you’re looking for a coupon for a specific business or product, always check its official website, which is a great place to find specialized printables.
But a coupon that’s found on a website that’s covered in ads, asks for personal information or leads you down multiple rabbit holes before allowing you to print a coupon is likely a fake. Some websites may require you to register for a user name before printing, but authentic coupon sites will never ask for credit card information.
You should also be wary of coupon clipping services, which offer clipped coupons from the Sunday newspaper for purchase. Most coupons list “not transferable” in the fine print — which means the purchase and transfer of these coupons between parties is against the law and makes the coupons invalid. Generally these companies will charge you for the coupons you’d like to purchase plus shipping and handling. Your money-saving coupons can start costing you money.
How it hurts shoppers
The Coupon Information Corporation has a good website for learning more about this issue.
For instance, some individuals and companies involved in coupon fraud have also been connected to tax evasion, money laundering and commercial credit fraud . Penalties for coupon fraud are strict.
To date there have been prison sentences of up to 17 years and financial penalties of up to $5 million.
If shoppers continue to try to pass counterfeit coupons, they may soon feel the effect at the register.
Stores that turn in counterfeit coupons are not reimbursed for the discount that was given to the shopper. Stores that have this happen repeatedly are often forced to change their coupon polic ies or reject certain coupons altogether.
The Coupon Information Corporation has a tool for checking to see if your coupons are counterfeit. If you have a specific coupon you’d like to check on, visit www.couponinformationcenter.com and click on “Counterfeit Notifications” in the upper right-hand corner.
There you will find a list of counterfeit coupons dating back to 2000. You can scroll through the list and browse the coupons, or search for a coupon by keyword. Each coupon on the list includes a photo of the counterfeit coupon, the value, the expiration date, the barcode, the listed offer, the brand and the manufacturer. The list can also be viewed in a PDF format or Excel spreadsheet.
Have you ever been fooled by a counterfeit coupon? Join the conversation on the Shoptimist blog at blogs.roanoke.com/shoptimist.
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