Coupon fraud costs manufacturers hundreds of millions each year, and it costs all of us in the long run. When a business loses money, they issue fewer coupons, which inevitably translates to less savings for us at the cash register. It’s important to note some of the ways we can unintentionally contribute to coupon fraud, and how we can avoid it all together.

 

1. Use coupons that come from a trustworthy source.

Never buy or sell coupons—it’s illegal and in violation of manufacturers’ coupon policies. Here are our favorite places to find legitimate coupons:

Coupons that you can view before printing, or coupons that are forwarded to you in an email are probably counterfeit.

 

2. Don’t photocopy coupons!

This should be obvious, but some people actually attempt it! Coupons.com allows you to print only two coupons per computer. However, there are some coupons that reset, which means you can print up to two more coupons from the same device—that’s four coupons total!

Related: 5 Easy Steps to Create and Maintain Your Coupon Binder

3. Only use a coupon for the product(s) listed in the fine print.

Sometimes, using a coupon for the wrong product accidentally happens. It’s when you intentionally use a coupon for a different item than what’s listed that makes it fraud.

Let’s say you shop at Walgreens and want to buy Colgate toothpaste that’s part of a “free” after Register Reward promotion. You look through your coupons and see this $1.50 off Colgate Total Advanced toothpaste, 4 oz or larger coupon! Your plan is to head to the store and get paid to buy toothpaste:

Colgate MaxFresh, MaxWhite or MaxClean toothpaste, 6 oz., $2.99
Buy 1, Receive $3.00 Register Reward
Use $1.50/1 Colgate Total Advanced toothpaste
Pay: $1.49, Receive $3.00 Register Reward
Final Price: $1.51 Moneymaker

[Do NOT attempt the above deal. It is an example of fraud.]

As you hand your coupon to the cashier, you now realize that the coupon says “Colgate Total Advanced” and you just purchased “Colgate MaxFresh.” Too late, the cashier has already scanned your coupon and says it’s okay, it scanned. The right thing to do is to explain to the cashier that it was your mistake, but that the cashier should never accept a coupon for a product that isn’t specifically allowed in the verbiage of the coupon.

4. Know how to spot a counterfeit coupon.

Counterfeit coupons typically have some of the following qualities:

  • The coupon makes you serious cash (not $0.50 or $1.00, but $5+).
  • The coupon requires you to pay something first before you can redeem it.
  • The coupon comes with fees attached.
  • The coupon has no expiration date.
  • The coupon lacks pertinent details (size, quantity, brand name, et al).
  • The coupon looks faded or poorly printed (like it is a photocopy, not an original).
  • The coupon has no verbiage noting that it is “void if sold” (nearly all coupons have this).

5. If you don’t know if a coupon’s legit, verify the code.

Coupon Resource has a nifty coupon verification tool that can help you feel confident about using the coupons you print.

 

For more information about coupon fraud, please visit The Coupon Information Center, a not-for-profit dedicated to preventing coupon fraud.

 

Related: 16 Overlooked Places to Find Rare Coupons

Are You Committing Coupon Fraud?