There are so many great things about using coupons, it stinks to think about coupon fraud! A lot of wonderful people use coupons correctly, but there are those that don’t. Educating ourselves about coupon fraud is a great way to make sure that coupons are being used the right way!
What is Coupon Fraud?
With so many coupons floating around, how do you know if you’re using them properly? Coupon fraud and misuse hurts everyone – it’s estimated to cause 500 million in losses a year. If you misuse your coupons and your store has high losses, they could decide to change their policy or stop accepting coupons altogether. You can also face penalties for coupon fraud. According to the Coupon Information Center, you can face up to a 17 year prison sentence and fines up to $5 million!! (The average is 3-5 year prison sentence and $200,000 in fines).
First, you should never copy or alter a coupon in any way – it is illegal! If you have an internet print out coupon, all you can do is print it – altering or manipulating it in any way is illegal. Copying ANY coupon is illegal.
Second, read the coupon, even the fine print. You can only use the coupon for the item spelled out on the coupon. If it says “$1 off 1 64 oz bottle of grape juice” then 1 64 oz bottle of grape juice is what you should be using it on, nothing else.
This brings us to the issue of barcode decoding. Basically this means that someone deciphers the barcode and uses a coupon for another product than it was intended. This is being cut down on because of the new GS1 databar barcodes that are being implemented. However, some people feel like it is ok to use coupons for items other than they are meant for simply because the store accepts the coupon or the coupon scans. This is wrong! While it has been shown on TV, it is still coupon fraud. You should only use the coupon you have for the item it states, nothing else. I found this article from Moms Need to Know really helpful when I first started couponing.
Third, you should make sure your coupon has all the crucial information on it and nothing has been accidentally cut off when you were clipping. Your coupon should have the expiration date, bar code, retailer redemption info, and value/amount information. If any of this information is missing or altered, you should throw away the coupon.
Tips for Avoiding Coupon Fraud
- Know where you are getting the information: There are a large amount of bloggers who do not put the amount of work in necessary to bring you legitimate information and YOU could be paying the price. Make sure you can trust your sources!
- The deal is too good to be true: If there is a coupon for a free product for very high value coupon like $3.00 off a bag of chips this is a huge red flag.
- The expiration date: Remember the better the coupon (High value coupons or coupons that have no size limit) have a shorter time it is good for. So if a printable coupon has more than 6 months till its expiration date – RED FLAG!
- The coupon is a PDF: PDFs are VERY easy to manipulate — this is another red flag. Again not all PDF coupons are fake but still be wary. If you receive the PDF directly off the manufacturer’s website that’s one thing but if you receive it an email – watch out!
- The coupon has no expiration date: Fake coupon can be spotted sometimes without having an expiration date – it makes sense the person who made the fake coupon wants to use it as long as possible. There are companies that forget or do not put an expiration date on a coupon – but you usually get these sort of coupons from the company themselves like in your Sunday paper.
- The coupon did not have a UPC code – HUGE RED FLAG – If there is no UPC it cannot be traced.
Here is an example for you – Lets see if you are able to see how this coupon below is fake:
Thanks Budget Savvy Diva for the picture!
What are signs of REAL printable coupons?
Legitimate printable coupons will have expiration dates, usually from 30 days to three months of the print time. They will have a bar code to scan just like a coupon you would find in the Sunday paper. They will also contain codes linking that coupon to your printer and IP address. They also will have a print limit, which is usually two per computer. Finally, most online printables require you to install software that allows you to print.
Can I use Expired Coupons?
This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to spend your time clipping and sorting coupons and then have to turn around and toss them out when a certain date comes. For some, it can be really tempting to try and slip in expired coupons to help save even more. But is it right to do so? Read on to find out what you should be doing!
1. Some stores DO accept expired coupons to be competitive with other stores in their area. There are none local to mid-Michigan that do. To find out if stores in your area accept expired coupons, call and speak to the store manager. If your store does not specifically state that they accept expired coupons, you should not use them. It is fraud to do so! The store will not be reimbursed for them if they are expired and therefore they will be losing money, which in turn could make them change their coupon policy negatively. To me this falls into the category of a few people ruining a good thing for everyone else following the rules!
2. I send all my expired and even unused coupons to Coups for Troops. Military families abroad can use expired coupons at their commissaries for up to six months past their expiration date. I think it’s a small way that my family can show our support to families making a huge sacrifice for our us. Make sure to visit their site for lots more info!
3. Use expired coupons as a learning tool for your kids! I am getting our seven-year old son more and more involved in my coupons and basically learning how to be fiscally responsible. He has been helping me cut coupons for quite a while, but I’m now having him do math problems with them too. And he loves it! I’m not exaggerating, he actually asks to play with them and do math. Anything that can help him learn, I’m all for!
What Tips Do YOU Have for Preventing Coupon Fraud?
All About Coupon Fraud.