It’s a scam that’s more likely to disrupt the checkout line than your credit line. So why should you care about a current surge in counterfeit coupons?
Well, try to use them and you could pay a price far greater—would you believe getting arrested?—than any savings you might get if the checkout clerk is fooled by the coupon and gives you the discount.
Bogus coupon or not?
- If it’s free, then flee. “There are no legitimate offers for free products, without any purchase, that can be printed from a home computer,” says Miller. Authentic online freebies require you to sign up, and the manufacturer then mails the coupon to you. But real buy-one, get-one free coupons and those promising a percentage or specific amount off can be printed online.
- If a coupon is displayed onscreen as an image, it’s usually counterfeit or unauthorized. Manufacturers avoid showing actual coupons to prevent their replication.
- Legitimate coupons always list an expiration date, and typically a specific product size. This info is often absent in fakes.
- For real print-and-use savings, stick to offers at manufacturers’ websites or reputable coupon sites such as www.coupons.com, www.coolsavings.com and www.couponmom.com. Unless you have previously enrolled at a website to get coupon offers, don’t click on any e-mailed offers you receive.
- If you wonder if a particular coupon is real, go to a page on the Coupon Information Corporation site where you can see images of phony coupons.
Sid Kirchheimer is author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
You may also like: How to spot a fake check. >>