You open your email one day to find a link for a coupon that makes you giddy! It might be for a free product, it could just save you a lot off of your next purchase. Sadly, most of these are fake.
Using a fake coupon is theft. You are stealing from the store. The reason is that if a store accepts a fraudulent coupon, they will not be reimbursed and are therefore out the value of the coupon. It may not sound like much, but if there are many fake coupons around, it can really become expensive for stores,which in turn requires them to raise their prices to cover these losses.
Of course, it is one thing to not realize a coupon is fake, and try to use it. However, it is entirely different to try to slip it in knowing it might be fake. Here are things to watch for:
If the coupon is for a value off which you have never seen before, it is usually fake. For instance, the one pictured above is for $8/1 Huggies Diapers. Have you ever seen a coupon for this amount? No – that is a cue that it is fake.
If the expiration date is an invalid date, it is more than likely not real. I have seen coupons with an expiration date of 11/31/2011. Last time I checked my calendar, there were only 30 days in November. Manufacturer’s will not make this mistake.
If there are multiple copies of the same coupon on a single page, it is fake. The coupons being emailed have 6 copies to one page. At no time EVER has a manufacturer placed 6 copies of the same coupon on a single piece of paper. They are not out to help give you 6 coupons and ensure that you save paper when printing them. Multiple coupons on a single page is another big flag that the coupon is not real.
If the coupon is emailed to you in a pdf file, it is more than likely fake. Again, the ones in circulation are not only pdfs, they are being emailed. There is no link to the manufacturer’s website. Of course there are legitimate pdf coupons, but you can always track those back valid websites so you can confirm that it is real.
There is an organization called the Coupon Information Center (CIC). They are responsible for keeping tabs on illegal coupon use, including fake coupons. In fact, they keep an updated list on their website. If you get a coupon and are not sure of it’s legality, you can always visit their website. You can even email them to ask them about it and they will be happy to help answer your questions. If you end up finding one that is fake that they are not aware of you, you are helping others by reporting it. What I love is that the CIC can track down who created the coupons and then proceeds with prosecution and fines. This really is a serious problem and they are taking steps necessary to protect both the consumers and retailers.
And really, the most logical way to tell if a coupon is fake – If it looks to good to be real, it probably is. I think that deep down most people know that Proctor & Gamble would never have a coupon for $9 off of Tide Detergent. It is very tempting to use the coupons, but when people use coupons in this manner, we all pay. We pay through increased prices at the store. We even pay by stores no longer accepting or limited coupons at the register. Just be honest. I don’t think that is too difficult a task.