Coupon Fraud Interview

Scissors and coupons cut from ad
Because coupons mean big business, there is a lot of coupon fraud.

Using printable online coupons, coupon codes, and in-store coupons may save you a lot of money, but coupon fraud problems are on the rise. So, there are some important factors to keep in mind when searching for coupon deals. The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) is a not-for-profit association of coupon-issuing manufacturers dedicated to enhancing the integrity of coupon industry. The CIC has assisted law enforcement officials with every significant coupon fraud case since May 1986, and has a 100 percent success rate. Bud Miller, executive director of the CIC, shares his insights about maximizing coupon savings and avoiding scams.

Coupon Information Corporation Interview

Why do companies offer coupons as a promotional device?

Coupons are a great promotional device, a true part of Americana, and the only way for companies to make sure that consumers receive 100 percent of the discount they are offering. They are also very effective. Coupon offers generate immediate and trackable sales.

Is it worth the effort to clip coupons? If so, what are the best methods for using them effectively?

Definitely yes! The best way to use coupons is to use them on products which are on sale and which offer a rebate.

Many people are searching the Internet for big-deal coupons. What three considerations indicate the threat of coupon fraud?

  • If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • "Free Product" or nearly-free product coupons are the most frequently counterfeited coupons.
  • Coupons that appear to have been printed on home or office equipment, yet were not designed to be Internet print-at-home coupons.

Never Buy a Coupon

Should you ever have to buy a coupon?No. Manufacturers give away billions of coupons for free. Consumers should not pay for them.

Some people try to sell coupons or coupon booklets online. Are these legitimate money-saving offers?

No. We are not aware of any legitimate person or organization that sells coupons. The sale of coupons violate the "Terms and Conditions" of virtually every coupon issued in the United States.

We are not aware of any legitimate coupon sales on eBay, either. As a point of fact, numerous manufacturers, industry associations, and even some law enforcement officials have requested eBay to prohibit the illicit coupon sales. As of this date, eBay has declined to do so.

Legitimate sources for coupons are manufacturer's websites and their authorized vendors, such as CoolSavings and Coupons, Inc., for example.

There are also other legal discount-based promotional devices. The most popular example is the charity-based Entertainment Books that feature discounts to restaurants and activities.

Shopping list and money on computer keyboard
While it's helpful to look for coupons online before shopping, keep in mind that not all manufacturers offer printable online coupons.

Scams Involving Coupons

What are some examples of coupon fraud of which consumers need to be aware?

Scammers usually offer big promises of free money, money without work, and easy money. These are the coupon fraud investigations that our organization deals with.

The top three scams are:

  1. Counterfeit coupons
  2. Coupon certificate booklets
  3. Work-at-home scams involving coupon clipping.

Here are some telltale signs of a counterfeit coupon:

  • Pictures on the coupon are fuzzy
  • Coupon text is misspelled
  • Longer-than-normal expiration dates
  • Coupon doesn't scan at the register
  • Physical coupons printed only on one side
  • Multiple coupons for the same product with the identical bar code numbers or PINs
  • Internet coupons missing vendor security features
  • Some manufacturers also do not issue Internet print-at-home coupons

Here's an example of a work-at-home coupon scam. Notice the spelling errors in the following appeal:

You are buying 5 Booklets with $1000 of coupns in each book. Here is how it works: Each booklet has 100 $10 Coupnon in them, That's 500 x $10 Coupons. You cut out a $10 Coupon and Fill out a card that is on the inside of the booklet. They provide you will 1 but you can photocopy it or they will send you a new one each time you use a $10 Coupon. In the booklet or on the website you find your favorite Food and Consumer Items (This includes everything not just food-Dipers,Toiletpaper whatever) and it will have an item # next to it. Send it in with a cutout $10 Coupon 1 of the 500 from the booklets and $2 for processing and they send you back an envelope with $12 or more of the coupons you need!

Final Thoughts

What other words of wisdom would you like to pass along?

Coupons are a great way to help balance your budget in these difficult times. Follow the rules and you can get some great savings, but be careful, there is no legitimate way to "get rich" with coupons. Most con artists are very friendly and outgoing, but they'll empty your accounts and take over your credit lines as they are befriending you. Everyone is vulnerable; it just takes a single moment of weakness or misguided trust to bankrupt you.

Additional Information

  • Visit the CIC website for an updated list of counterfeit coupons and to become aware of shady deals. You can also use this site to report any scams you might encounter.
  • If you have a favorite product, write to the manufacturer directly or visit its website to request coupons.

~Tracey L. Kelley

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Coupon Fraud Interview