I know about coupons. You probably do too. You cut them out, buy the product, and hand them to the cashier to save money on your food and other purchases. Is there more to know?
Yes, I think you should be aware that there are counterfeit coupons in circulation. People who do not know they have a counterfeit coupon become guilty of coupon fraud when they try to use it…. and to me, that’s simply not fair. I never know definitively if the coupon I printed or any other coupon I possess is counterfeit. There is no 100% sure way to tell. All the advice I have seen to avoid coupon fraud says, “Don’t buy coupons from anyone.” I have never purchased coupons from anyone, does this mean I am safe? — no. Because if I search the internet for a coupon, and the site looks legitimate, and the coupon looks like every other coupon I see distributed on the internet….it could still be counterfeit but how would I ever know?
The Internet has become the most cost effective way to distribute coupons. This method saves money by not having to design, print, and hire a firm to place their coupons in local newspapers. But, where there is money to be made, it’s just a matter of time before someone figures out how to get around the system. Coupons are counterfeited with the express purpose of either selling them to unsuspecting victims and to “steal” products from the stores. Getting away with it, is as easy as bringing in a printed piece of paper…or putting up an online auction ~ how easy can it get?
The caveat is that not all stores will accept internet coupons, and still others limit their use. Why? The ease in being able to “photocopy” and counterfeit internet coupons of course. I don’t have a problem with limitations in theory – although when merchants won’t accept them, that defeats the entire purpose of having a coupon. When I buy the exact item listed on the coupon, I don’t just have “high expectations” the coupon will be accepted, I feel it should be accepted.
Looking at the list of “known” counterfeit coupons ( find it here: http://www.couponinformationcenter.com/) most aren’t free coupons, but instead are a cents off coupon, or a buy one get one free coupon — why? The counterfeit coupons people circulate aren’t always for a free product. You would think they would be. And did you notice I said circulate? For some reason, the people who counterfeit them, also like to share them (sometimes freely, sometimes for a fee). And, I really don’t get it, they risk jail time, a huge fine, and their reputation in addition to the embarrassment for a discount off a purchase?
Many people have written articles lately to scare legitimate users — telling them they will be guilty of coupon fraud as well as ….”this, that, or the other thing” if they print and use them. However, that annoys me because none of that is even close to fair to the normal user of these coupons. If a person prints 1000 of them, and then goes to use them or sell them — that is one thing, if another person uses one they printed when that user shared them — I don’t believe there is one shred of guilt there. Whatever happened to common sense? Thousands of manufacturers have chosen this method to distribute their coupons, and it saves them considerable amounts of money and works to encourage customers to try their products. Will coupon fraud end that?
The most help provided as a way to avoid coupon fraud for the average person is “don’t buy coupons”. So why are there still so many sellers of them on eBay? Why hasn’t eBay shut the category? If the CIC (link above) and the other law enforcement agencies truly believed this was the foremost way most counterfeit coupons get into circulation, why haven’t they shut the venue/category down. My check of eBay today had 68,483 listings in coupons.
And then what do you do when even the legitimate coupons are rejected at the store level? To an honest consumer, this is one of the biggest hassles you can encounter. You feel like you’ve done something wrong when you haven’t — you feel accused and found guilty. You are embarrassed for no reason. In my opinion, and everything I write is 100% my opinion, there is no reason for a store, cashier or policy to do this to anyone. If it happens to you, my advice is to just pick up your remaining coupons and leave.
UPDATE: Ever hear of the universal consciousness? My sister talks about it all the time ~ and just a few days after writing this article – they arrested several woman who they allege were running the largest counterfeit coupon ring in AZ! This wasn’t ‘thousands’ of dollars, it looks like it might have be ‘millions’ of dollars. More info, if you are interested here: Counterfeit Coupon Ring Busted