Coupon fraud is on the rise, unfortunately. And those who use coupons incorrectly, ruin it for those of us that use them the right way. Companies will begin to offer less and less coupons if coupon fraud gets worse and we don’t want that. I wouldn’t buy half as much as I do if it weren’t for coupons so if they began to disappear I’d be in trouble! I couldn’t imagine paying full price for some things.
Coupons are meant to be used. Companies print a certain amount of coupons and expect a percentage of them to be used. If more than they print are redeemed them something went wrong and therefore they may not release coupons anymore.
One of the best ways to reduce coupon fraud is for consumers to recognize and refuse suspicious coupons. Here are some tips, from Coupon Sherpa, that will help savvy coupon users spot a fake coupon.
- The UPC is suspicious: A UPC consists of a bar code and numbers placed at the bottom of each coupon. Bar codes include 12 numbers that represent different things. The first digit represents the actual coupon; the next five numbers identify the manufacturer; followed by three digits indicating the family code assigned to the product by the manufacturer; the proceeding two digits represent the coupon’s value; and the last digit is known as a “check digit” that tells the cashier how to validate a coupon. Look for signs that indicate the bar code has been tampered with or smudged. Make sure it matches the description found on the front of the coupon. For example, if the bar code numbers indicating the coupon’s value are 20, the value of the coupon should be 20-cents off the product.
- No or little redemption data: All online coupons should include the “small print” information found on traditional coupons. This includes an expiration date.
- Too easy to access: Most legitimate Internet-based coupon services require registration or subscription to access coupons. Consider the source before downloading.
- Too good a deal: Out-of-this-world deals are likely fraudulent. Manufacturers and retailers simply don’t offer $200 coupons on a $300 product.
- Photocopied coupons: It’s illegal to photocopy or scan a coupon. You can tell if a coupon has been scanned or copied then uploaded to a web site by visiting the manufacturer’s web site. If that site doesn’t have printable coupons, it’s likely the original coupon is fraudulent.
- Fake printed coupons: These are easy to spot as they’re usually printed on thin, cheap computer paper and look faded.
- Up-front fees: You shouldn’t have to pay money before receiving coupons. Up-front fees suggest a fraudulent coupon.
- Longer-than-normal expiration dates: Coupon distributors have steadily decreased the number of days you can use a coupon. Be wary of coupons with an expiration date that is more than 30 days out.
- One-sided print coupons: Newspaper, magazine and insert coupons should have print on both sides.