coupons1(2)Just hearing the word “counterfeit” gives me the heebie jeebies! Knowing that there are coupon counterfeiters pedaling fraudulent coupons in our communities makes me want to learn more about how to identify and prevent counterfeit coupons! Coupon Information Center is a great resource if you’re just as concerned as I am. I was able to access a list of current and recently identified counterfeit coupons in circulation. Just having access to this list and resource makes me feel more confident about recognizing coupon fraud. Here are six tips I’ve learned that I hope will help you steer clear of counterfeit coupons as well!

1. Avoid downloading coupons from an Internet forum

These coupons are not provided by a manufacturer and therefore are not authorized. You should not be able to see what the coupon looks like in order to print it. Coupons.com is the perfect example of how a coupon site should function. You select the coupon, and then the coupon prints. You aren’t able to view what the coupon looks like prior to printing.

2. Be cautious of high-value or free coupons

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Keep that in mind if you see an $8 coupon for Glad trash bags—it’s probably counterfeit. Check the website to see if an image is available. Although rare, I have seen high-value coupons in circulation that were legitimate. For example, Fresh Step cat litter has a Paw Points rewards program that allows you to redeem points in exchange for free cat litter coupons. There was a limit on the value of the coupon, which is something else you should look for that indicates legitimacy.

3. Avoid paying for a coupon

Think of the different avenues you use to obtain coupons: the Sunday paper, Facebook, Coupons.com, coupon blogs with associated links, products, and manufacturers. If you are charged for a coupon, beware. If you are buying coupons off of the Internet, that’s your first clue they may be counterfeit. If a company is pushing for a sale, investigate further.

4. Give the store a break

Give the cashier a break if the register beeps. It’s easy to be defensive, but if you know the coupon isn’t fake and you got it from a legitimate source, give the cashier time to make a decision. Of course, the cashier doesn’t know you or where you got the coupon so there’s a check system in place to protect the store and the manufacturer. I’ve learned to say okay if they won’t accept it. In that case, I just don’t purchase the item. Abide by the rules of using a legitimate coupon, and follow the store guidelines regarding coupons at all times.

5. Examine the coupon

Has the coupon been copied and pasted? Are the corners symmetrical or slightly tilted? Is there a generic description? Is the coupon printing out multiple times? All of these clues could indicate a counterfeit coupon. Just because the coupon may scan at the store does not mean it’s legitimate.