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What Is Coupon Fraud and How to Avoid It!

What Is Coupon Fraud?

Coupon fraud occurs whenever someone intentionally uses a coupon for a product that he/she has not purchased or otherwise fails to satisfy the terms and conditions for redemption or when coupons are altered/counterfeited.

How to Avoid Coupon Fraud

1. If a coupon specifies a certain product, only buy that product. Example: Save $0.50 on Cheerios Original (in the yellow box) means you can only buy the Original Cheerios and not other varieties.

2. You can only use one coupon on one item, even if they are different values. Example: If you have two coupons for Venus razors, you have to buy two razors to use both coupons. Even if they are different value coupons, from different sources, or a mix of printable and newspaper coupons.

3. Don’t photocopy coupons. Ever. End of story.

4. Don’t use expired coupons. You can use a coupon on the expiration date but not after.

5. If there are size limitations listed on your coupon, you must abide by them.  Example: If a coupon states “Excludes Trial Size,” you cannot purchase a trial size product with that coupon. If the coupon says 5 oz or larger, you must abide by that verbiage.

6. Don’t purchase, use, or manufacturer fake coupons. Use caution when purchasing coupons online.  Make sure you can verify the source of the coupon (which insert it came from) and don’t buy “free product” coupons online.

Remember, it’s not a valid excuse to say, “But the register scanned the coupon” or “My cashier let me do it.” It’s coupon fraud whether the register or cashier allows it or not.

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47 thoughts on “What Is Coupon Fraud and How to Avoid It!”

  1. KCL, I think you talked about this before but I can’t find it. What does “one per person” mean? If I buy something today can I buy another one another day or does it strictly mean one total. I’m confused because I keep reading people say they got more than one of something at Rite-aid when the in ad coupon states “one per person.” Thanks for your help in clearing things up!

    • There are variations on this one. You may see the one per purchase, one per transaction, one per personper day, and so on. And it also depends on the retailer, manufacturer, and sometimes cashier’s interpretation of those terms. I’ve had some cashiers think that one per purchase means I can only use one coupon when typically it means one per purchase of that particular item. On the one per person or per day I find that varies as well – Target is really big on this term on their coupons. Some locations don’t pay those terms any attention and allow more than one to be used per person and in any given transaction while other locations strictly adhere to the terms printed on the coupon. In any instance where you are unsure or find you might be in a gray area I would say to stop by Customer Service in that store and ask them – it’s really up to them how they want to honor the coupon and what the terms printed on any given coupon mean to them (since they’re the ones taking the risk if the redemption of the coupon is denied by the manufacturer). HTH

  2. Can someone please tell me if you can use a coupon on a “package of two” product? Example: Target very often has a two count of Suave shampoo. Can you use a coupon for say, Suave .50/1? Is it one Suave or one purchase even though there are two items in the purchase?

    • When the item comes packaged like that (ie. at Target those two-fers are typically shrinkwrapped together) then it is considered one item so you could only use the one $0.501 coupon. You could not use two of that coupon or any $$2 coupon. HTH

  3. Side note on point#4 – some retailers will allow the use of expired coupons depending on their store policies. For example, a lot of Publix stores run their coupons Sunday through Saturday (meaning they only submit coupons to Corporate once weekly). If the coupon expires any time in that week you can still use it until the end of the week when the run closes. That’s what my local stores allow but YMMV – so it doesn’t hurt to ask your local retailer what their policy is and allow them to clarify what they will and will not accept.

  4. babySOL says:

    How do you use a coupon on a product that you didn’t purchase? I’m confused on this one…

  5. Kristen says:

    I have to say as a beginner I am now totally confused about this, I thought that you could use one store coupon and one manufacture coupon on the same item, I kind of thought this was the whole point. Can someone please clarify? I am so confused.

    • stephanie says:

      You can use one manufacturer cpn and one store cpn unless the store cpn states that its a mfr coupon. If it says that its a mfr cpn than the mfr paid for that cpn and not the store. I work at CVS and we take our store cpns and mfr cpns for the same product all the time with no problem.

  6. Jeffy Walker says:

    Whats the big deal with copying coupons?

    • would you photocopy a dollar bill? no! for the same reasons its not ok to photocopy money, its not ok to photocopy coupons. each dollar/coupon has printed on it a unique identification number, upon which its integrity is based.

      • It actually depends on the source of the coupon. In the case where the coupon was a PDF coupon and the manufacturer or storeissuer makes the coupon available without any restrictions then I would have to disagree (ie. some Publix coupons, Petco coupons, Whole Foods coupons, and on and on). In the case of the big online printable services then yes – each coupon has a unique identifier on it that corresponds to the machine it was printed from (on both the face of the coupon as well as in the border around the outer edge). That’s where you wouldn’t copy one however there are additional ethical questions when it comes to beating the restrictions in place and printing more than 2 by using more than one computer (which a lot of people do including myself).

        • obviously, pdf coupons are different. i was referring to “normal” internet printed coupons and newspaper coupons. with pdf coupons, i think we all have to remember to print as many as our family will reasonable need (for some people, 1, for others maybe 4). we have to be careful not to abuse pdf coupons. as to the other types of coupons you mentioned, i don’t know about them since i don’t use them. as always when using a coupon, make sure you are abiding by the individual coupon’s restrictions and also the store coupon policy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree Crissy I have seen these coupons especially for milk and cheese valid in utah and idaho only

  8. Anonymous says:

    That’s scary stores actually cutting coupons and turning them in whats to stop the same people from photo copying our coupons we use and turning them in? I don’t like it one bit and I have got accused of coupon fraud many times because I print in grey scale its embarrassing to be accused of doing something I personally would never think of doing..

  9. serenity says:

    thanks for the great information! I am still learning so it’s helpful! most of it common sense but some not so much! thanks again!

  10. jenn says:

    When you have a manufacture buy one get one free coupon, can you add another manufacture coupon? please advice,I’m confused. thx

    • Anonymous says:

      no only one manufacture coupon per item at one time

    • cc says:

      the best way to look at bogo coupons or $ off so and so when you buy this and that is to look at them just like $!/3 or $1/2 coupons. They require the purchase of all items mentioned on the coupon in order to use the coupon, so you cannot use another manufacturer coupon for any of those items. Extreme couponers used to side skirt this issue with the thought of “i am using the bogo coupon on the free item and can use another coupon on the item I am purchasing” but that no longer holds true. Many stores have put into their policies that cents off coupons are not allowed in conjunction with bogo coupons and many manufacturers have changed the fine print wording on their coupons to say something along the lines of limit one coupon per purchase of product(s)/quantities indicated (rather than the old phrase of limit one coupon per purchase which extreme couponers took to mean a manufacturer coupon could be used on EACH item which in turn allowed a cents off coupon with a bogo coupon). CONFUSED??? It took me quite a while to get the hang of all of it. I never really felt right about the whole stacking manufacturer coupon thing, so I, for one, am glad there has been clarification of this issue over the past several months. Hope my rambling helped some! :)

      • Breanna says:

        No you can’t stack two mq but some stores let you stack a mq with a store coupon or stack mq with a bogo SALE all that depends on the store.

  11. barbaracook60@yahoo.com says:

    Beloved Coupon Ladies, thank you I am just getting started and I have learned so much from the both of you! May God Bless you both!

  12. jj says:

    I just printed two earthbound farm coupons and they have two identical code. I am so scare to use it now. Does this happen to anyone?

  13. Cynthia Champion says:

    I will be sharing this video with my workers. I always tell them they can’t take photocopies and they don’t grasp what I mean. Hopefully this video will help them understand more!

  14. The video seems to be OK now. Thanks Ladies, the videos are always very informative!

  15. Anonymous says:

    I was behind a woman at Walmart who was trying to use coupons where the expiration date had been “accidentally” cut off! That’s another no-no!

    • Nadya says:

      The new barcode has the date coded in. I went two weeks ago (10 days I think) and I didn’t realize that my loreal coupon had expired the day before, it was the only coupon of 12 that beeped (the other were for other items) and the cashier couldn’t fathom why.. Neither could I, he checked size, name brand, item, everything. He tried again, over and over and the mgr, too, a minute later they both said let’s check date.. EXPIRED!! Just by 8 hours, but it was expired. They gave it to me, but I’m not going to make a practice of taking day old expired coupons to them!

  16. The video should be live, sorry folks! :)

  17. BusyLady says:

    One thing that I think is coupon fraud is to change your zip code to print a coupon (i.e., the grapefruit coupon that all the blogs are advertising but you must change your zip code to get it). How is changing your zip code not coupon fraud? I would be mad if I actually lived in that zip code and the coupon reached its limit because all these coupon bloggers are telling people to change their zip to print it! Not to mention, the store might not get reimbursed for the coupon because it was used in the wrong region.

    • Anonymous says:

      I will be interested to see how KCL responds to this matter. Doing a quick google search, it seems most coupon sites, say it might not be illegal, but it certainly isn’t ethical. Their reasoning is, manufacturers are trying to target certain areas of either slow sales, trying new products lines only carried in certain regions, etc.

      • a Pie says:

        I know I’ve seen videos on KCL where the ladies are telling us to use different zip codes. So my thoughts would be they’d say it’s perfectly fine as long as you don’t abuse the right. :)

  18. Guest says:

    Great infos!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Don’t use a paper cutter to cut coupons it’s gang cutting.

    • May says:

      It’s what?

    • Mary G says:

      yep, that’s what they say but even if you use a scissor, it’s considered the same. but seriously how many people who do this are cutting each one out separately when you buy like 4 copies of the paper? very much doubt it. and i am guilty too ;(

      • “gang cutting” does NOT refer to an individual stacking multiples of the same coupon together and cutting them out. instead, “gang cutting” refers to the illegal practice of some shady stores who have their employees cut out coupons and then submit them for reimbursement although no product has been purchased. it is the reimbursement fraud, not the cutting itself, that is illegal. it is perfectly fine for an individual person like you or me to stack coupons together before cutting them out.

        • Mary G says:

          i know that. what i meant was that it also true but little known that us real regular people that we are still required to cut each coupon out separately. this is only what i read. stacking and cutting (regular people) is still illegal. the term got it’s name from what happen years ago. i only am saying what i read. i still plan on stacking and cutting. cannot fathom sitting their cutting each one out.

        • Nadya says:

          I didn’t even know this happened… I did hear about a store (Rite Aid????) That took some coupons and send them in, the clearing house was suspicious because the coupons were in sequential order and looked brand new.. My coupons are almost always bent or torn from the corners, so of course they looked into it..I think it was Rite aid….

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, I had no idea what that meant and googled – very interesting!!

    • Carol_R says:

      No it’s not. Gang cutting is when retailers bought coupons and cut them and turned them in for products where the customer never used coupons.

      • Nadya says:

        I thought coupons were reimbursed and then if the company that sent out coupons wanted an inventory list, that’s how they knew coupons had been used correctly? I mean coupons are reimbursed by inventory?

  20. 1mari says:

    This is a great topic and just in due time! I’m sure it’s happened to everyone at one time or another when they “unitentionally” used a coupon for wrong size and limits etc. So thank you for stressing this! I feel like more and more people are starting to use coupons without even understanding how. Which in the long run could ruin it for those who play by the rules. Let’s face it…to get a great, awesome, stock up deal….it is hard and takes a lot of work and time! Such as multiple transactions to avoid limit restrictions on coupons, or printing online coupons from multiple computers so that you can get more than your computer limit of two coupons (And NOT photo copy them)! and not too mention the constant need of cashflow to coupon with! Couponing is not easy! I’m guessing within a few years, due to fraud, coupons will be gone and those sites like savingstar, ibotta etc. are going to be the only and safe way to use coupons. In my opinion.

    PS: I can’t view the video. It says it’s private.

  21. Unable to watch video. Message says video is private.

  22. n00bcouponer says:

    Mmmm when I tried to watch your video, it says that its private?