If you’ve couponed for longer than five minutes, you’ve probably wondered about whether fake coupons exist. The bad news is, they do. The good news is, there are some ways to protect yourself. While I’ve never personally used a counterfeit coupon, the news tells us that today’s savvy counterfeiter is certainly eager to get fake coupons into our hands. Here’s what you need to know about techniques retailers use to spot counterfeit coupons.
4 Major ways people get fake coupons
There are many ways to acquire a fake coupon—whether you’re trying to or not. Here are four of the most common ways it can happen:
- Buying coupons online
- Trading coupons with people you don’t know personally
- Illegal coupon printing that results in fake coupons
- Printing off online coupons from an unknown source
3 Ways to protect yourself
1. The Coupon Information Corporation advises consumers who are concerned about presenting a counterfeit coupon for redemption to “never buy online coupons” (see ABC 2 WBAY.com for more).
2. Also, the CIC reminds consumers that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
3. Finally, if you do print coupons online, check to see if the site prompts you to download free software (it should) to verify the coupon printing. Also, while printing, you should not see the coupon itself on the screen. (If you do see the coupon itself, it may be a fake coupon!)
4 Ways stores spot fake coupons
Counterfeit training and technology is constantly evolving. But these are some common ways stores train employees and managers to spot counterfeit coupons.
1. Coupon has been visibly altered
One sign store cashiers and managers are trained to look for is a coupon that has been altered in some way from its original version. For instance, say the coupon was originally for $0.50 off, but now it reads “$2.50 off.”
2. Coupon is on a list of known counterfeit coupons
Retailers keep tabs on which coupons have been flagged by other stores. The CIC (see How to Protect Yourself) is one organization that publishes alerts and lists that retailers can consult.
- List example: CIC PSA LIST
- Alerts example: Coupon Information Corporation
- Counterfeit coupon example: http://couponinformationcenter.com/doc/QR-PSA-FINAL.pdf
3. Coupon comes from a known fraudulent coupon book
Just as individual coupons can be counterfeited, so too can entire books of coupons be created—and sold for a profit—before being redeemed! Many coupons of this type offer “free” products with coupon redemption.
- Example of coupon from fraudulent book: http://www.scambusters.org/fakecoupons.html
4. Coupon that contains inaccurate information or a cheap appearance
Some counterfeit coupons are simply shoddily made. The expiration date falls on a calendar date that doesn’t exist (November 31st, for instance). Or the savings is more than the store charges for the item. Or the coupon simply looks like it is a multiple print, with faded ink or wavy lines.