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Extreme Couponing Tip: How to Spot Fraudulent Manufacturer Coupons

Follow the ethics of couponing by only using legitimate manufacturer coupons. Read below on how to tell a real from a fake:

Legitimate clipped coupon properties:

  • Expiration dates usually 30 days to 3 months from distribution
  • Scannable bar code (usually a UPC and a GS1 Databar code, though some coupons now just feature the GS1)
  • Printed on glossy, colored paper
  • Valid fine print: coupons should have special terms listed and a remit address

Red flags that may indicate a fraudulent or fake coupon:

  • Unusually high value coupon
  • No expiration date, or an expiration date more than one year away
  • "Free product" coupon not given to you directly from the manufacturer or multiples of the same free product coupon
  • Misspellings (e.g. Oscar Meyer, Glaceu water, etc)
  • Printed on thin copy paper
  • Stand-alone coupons: coupons not printed next to other coupons (like in the Sunday inserts) because it is easier to make and circulate just one fraudulent coupon
Although these are guidelines, sometimes there are exceptions. If a coupon varies from the standard form/look or has more than one red flag, be skeptical. Trace the coupon to its source to establish validity and keep up to date on the list of fraudulent coupons on the Coupon Information Corporation website. Do not buy or accept coupons from third parties where the validity and source of the coupon cannot be guaranteed.
Stick with manufactured coupons clipped from these sources to ensure legitimacy: Sunday newspaper inserts, magazines, tear pads, blinkies, peelies, and product packaging. For more on valid printable coupons, check out Printable Coupon Legitimacy.