Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What is coupon fraud and how to identify fraudulent coupons

Coupon fraud is illegal act in which someone abuses coupons by using them in a way, which they were not intended. Coupon fraud causes retailers to become stricter when you try to redeem coupons. Counterfeit coupons are the reason many retailers have stopped taking internet printed coupons. They are not reimbursed from the manufacture for fake coupons causing them to loose money. It is estimated that retailers loose at least $500 million dollars a year to fraudulent and counterfeit coupons. Consumers are the ones who ultimately pay the price for this when retailers start raising prices and having fewer promotional offers in order to make up for money lost.

Manufactures also become less willing to distribute coupons. They often have to spend extra money on fancy security paper or some other kind of security feature in order to prove the legit coupons.

Coupon fraud hurts everyone. It’s not fair for an honest couponer to have to deal with all the extra hassles out there because some feel that coupon fraud is okay. Companies and retailers are already generous enough to publish coupons and sales. They don’t have to do this, but they do so, to help you save money. It’s a shame that many people feel that this is not enough and wish to abuse a good thing to the extent that companies and retailers become stricter. In the end, everyone suffers.

I only wish the fraudulent coupon users out there just knew that you can get lots of good deals and free items using coupons legally. You don’t have to commit a crime to do so.

Printable coupons have become very popular and they come in many different ways. Some come from printable coupon sites such as Smart Source or Cool Savings. Others come from manufacture websites like Betty Crocker. Then there are other special promotional coupons individually released by manufacturers. Although most Internet Printed coupons are probably legit, sometimes it can be hard to know for sure. Keeping in mind the old saying, ‘If it’s too good to be true – it probably is’ here are some ways too look out for fake and fraudulent coupons:

1. I am always skeptical of PDF files, which contain coupons. If you come across one of these files and you are skeptical, go to the manufacturer web site and check to see if the coupon is being offered directly from their site.

2. If you are ever in doubt of a coupon being fraudulent, contact the manufacturer. Ask them about the coupon in question and provide a link if possible. Don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer about a coupon. They would rather you ask then to use a fake coupon and most of the time they know about the coupon anyways.

3. If you receive a questionable coupon, look at the bar code. If the bar code is in poor quality or fuzzy, it may have been copied or altered. This doesn’t mean every coupon that has a fuzzy bar code is fake, it just gives a heads up – and again if you are concerned about the coupon, contact the manufacturer.