If you’re committed to saving money every time you shop, using coupons will help you stay on track. However, coupon fraud is a very real concern that can affect new and experienced deal seekers alike.
There are certain signs that a coupon you plan on using is fraudulent — some easier to recognize than others — so teach yourself to start looking for these eight clues that a coupon may be a fake.
1. Photocopies Of Coupons
Whether a friend or family member hands you one or you just find an enticing coupon being shared online, check and double check to see if it has been photocopied. The easiest way to fraudulently edit a coupon is to make a copy, but beyond fake coupons, using coupon copies can also be considered fraud. Most coupons will have a printable limit — typically between one and three additional copies — so anything beyond that is a deceptive use, and hence, fraud. Your best bet is to find coupons online using a reputable online deal site.
2. The Deal Is Too Good To Be True
If it feels like too good of a deal, it’s probably a fake coupon. Yes, it would be ideal if major retailers sent you a 90% off coupon, but the chances of that are rare. Always try and assess each deal to see if it makes sense to the retailers or manufacturers — while they want to reward your loyalty, they still have to protect their bottom line.
3. Online Coupons Don’t Contain Links
In the days of social media, it’s not rare to find great deals floating around on Facebook or Twitter, but as with anything, be careful with what you find. A fake online coupon won’t link to the retailer’s website directly, and this should raise some red flags. Stores are willing to offer coupons to drive a customer to make a purchase in the most direct way possible. Hence, for a retailer to get you to take action — make a purchase and use that coupon — they will make it as easy as possible to act by including a link within the coupon. No link, no deal.
4. It Has Been Altered
As you become more familiar with couponing, you’ll start to notice the repeating elements in legitimate coupons that can be missing in those that are fake. A major element of a fake coupon is a missing barcode — how else is a retailer supposed to read the promotion or discount at checkout? Also look for things like logos that don’t look quite right as well as design and font consistency. If a coupon looks like it has been altered, it probably was.
5. You Have To Pay For It
One of the primary things to remember about coupons is that it is typically fraudulent to sell them. However, if you search eBay or Craigslist for coupons, you’ll find hundreds of people willing to sell you some hot deals — so what gives? Some people who sell coupons on these sites are selling real coupons, despite violating their terms, but others are selling scam coupons for real money. It’s best to remember that companies provide coupons and deals to customers for free, so if you are looking for a specific deal, check out online deal sites instead which will aggregate deals from different manufacturers and industries in one place.
6. It’s On The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) List
The CIC keeps a list of fraudulent coupons, which is the best way to protect yourself from fraud. If you receive a coupon that seems like it might not be authentic, check it against the list to see if it shows up. Of course, as scammers get more innovative, every fake coupon may not yet show up on the list, so always exercise caution if you are unsure.
7. The Expiration Date Seems Off
Another stark clue that something is up with a coupon is the expiration date. Stores and manufacturers offer ongoing deals throughout the year, so they don’t typically provide coupons with extended expiration dates; on average, coupons are typically good for about 30 days. If you’ve received a coupon that is good for a year — or doesn’t have an expiration date — it is likely a fake.
8. It’s Missing The Fine Print
Coupon issuers will include fine print on their coupons that details how you can use the promotion, and the items and discounts you can expect. Many fraudulent coupons do not include any fine print, which should be a big hint that they are less than legitimate.
The best way to protect yourself from coupon fraud is to get your deals from a verified and legitimate resource. Sign up for savings and deals from your favorite manufacturers, all in one secure location.