Counterfeit Coupons

Can you tell when a coupon is counterfeit?

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Counterfeit Coupons, Coupon Fraud and Ethics - When Good Coupons Go Bad

how to avoid counterfeit coupons
Counterfeit coupons and coupon fraud is real, and is sometimes done innocently. Learn when a free product coupon is too good to be true and how to spot a fake. Make sure your Coupon Queen hobby is on the up-and-up with these tips.

There are two main negative aspects of using coupons for free stuff or really cheap stuff: Unethical coupon users who purposefully cheat the system (coupon fraud) and ignorant (and sometimes indignant) cashiers or stores who do not understand how coupons work. The first aspect, coupon fraud, is discussed here.

Counterfeit Coupons

The phrase "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" doesn't apply too often in the world of couponing and refunding. Unbelievable deals about.

But occasionally, you may come across a coupon that is above and beyond all other coupons you have seen. This may, in fact, be a counterfeit coupon.

Unethical people counterfeit coupons on their computers just like thieves counterfeit money. Often, using coupon fraud, they create duplicate free product coupons and will go to multiple stores cashing in on their high value goods.

Things like cases of energy drinks, large bags of dog food, baby formula and diapers, and any other high cost item are usually the coupons that are counterfeited. The thieves then use or sell their stolen goods.

There is no difference between counterfeiting coupons and counterfeiting dollar bills. It is illegal, and when caught, criminals face steep penalties. Financial penalties for those convicted of coupon fraud are often in excess of $200,000 with the highest being $5M. The longest prison sentence was 17 years.

Now, I'm sure that nearly every stay at home mom and verifiable Coupon Queen reading this right now would never even dream of breaking the law, so this information doesn't really apply to you, right? Wrong. The truth is, you could inadvertently be using a counterfeit coupon.

Often, the fake coupons end up for sale on eBay or someone who has bought one on eBay gives the printable file to a friend. Most of the time, these people use these fraudulent coupons thinking they are valid.

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Free Item Coupons

Most coupon fraud centers around multiple free item coupons. But what exactly are free item coupons?

Manufacturers will mail consumers coupons to replace a defective item, as a contest winning, or as a free sample occasionally. These coupons, which usually contain a holographic image to deter fraud, allow the user to purchase a specified item, totally free.

Thieves will obtain these free item coupons, either by calling the manufacturer and complaining about a product themselves or purchasing a free item coupon on eBay, and then counterfeit them, allowing the thief to use or sell as many coupons for that item as they wish. This type of coupon fraud is horrible, and needs to be stopped.

So how can the average Coupon Queen tell if her coupon is real?

1. You will nearly never print a coupon for a free item online
Manufacturers and stores these days are getting wise to these counterfeit coupons. One thing they have done to prevent their widespread use is to not allow any coupons for free items to be printed from the internet. This doesn't stop the more sophisticated thieves, but it does help the average Coupon Queen. If a friend sends you a PDF file for a free item coupon, expect it to be counterfeit.

2. You will never be able to print out multiple free product coupons from a PDF file
On the rare occasion where a manufacturer will allow you to print a free product coupon online, say, for a free candy bar or other low cost item, the manufacturer will never allow you to print more than two. You will not be handed a PDF file to print as many coupons for free stuff as you want. Stay away from ALL PDF files for free product coupons.


It is important to note that you may find PDF files occasionally for regular coupons, say $1 off band-aids or the like. PDF files themselves do not make a coupon fraudulent. It's the ones that contain the free product coupons that are counterfeit.

3. You can check for some counterfeit coupons
There is a great website to see confirmed counterfeits. Simply go to the Cents Off website and verify if that coupon your best friend and Coupon Queen buddy sent you is real. Remember, most people who pass around free product coupons in a PDF file are doing so innocently.

Copying Internet Coupons

Another form of coupon fraud is copying printable manufacturer's grocery coupons. You see, most manufacturers offer online coupons for customers to print from a service that will allow you to print a maximum of two coupons per computer.

Your computer will contain a cookie to prevent the sites from allowing you to print off more than that. The legitimate way around that is to use more than one computer.

But occasionally, a new Coupon Queen may decide to photocopy one of the coupons she printed in order to get more. The problem here is that the manufacturer only intends for two to be printed, and photocopying makes the coupon invalid.

What happens when users illegally copy internet coupons? Each coupon has a unique tracking code. If more than one of those coupons with those unique tracking codes are used, the coupon printing websites will block the computer that originally printed the coupons from ANY and ALL coupon printing in the future. Considering there are only a handful of coupon printing sites for all the manufacturers, this is not a good thing.
Have your ever encountered a counterfeit coupon that either you or a friend was using unwittingly? If so, what did you do about it?

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Related Pages

  • Grocery Coupon Online Classes
  • Why Save with Coupons
  • How to Save with Coupons
  • Start a Grocery Price Book
  • Guest Bloggers: Frugal Coupon Moms
  • Coupon Deals Websites
  • What to do With Your Stockpile
  • Caveat: Your Mileage May Vary

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