Coupon Scams

A concerning yet often overlooked new trend in scams is the marked increase in coupon scams. This type of scam usually involves suspicious looking coupons which are sold online. Scammers forge very realistic looking coupons and sell them to you, the consumer. Paying ten dollars for an online coupon book with 100 dollars' worth of coupons seems like a good deal. When you try and use the coupon either the fake will be real enough to fool the store or it won't be.

If the phony coupon is accepted the manufacturer (e.g. Coke, Pepsi, Nabisco, etc.) is cheated out of the profits they would've otherwise been entitled to, andcoupon scam if it's you, the consumer, spent your money on a worthless coupon book. In some cases, you may even be partially criminally culpable for attempted fraud. These scams have cost consumers and manufacturers alike millions of dollars of loss in recent years.

How can you spot a phony coupon you ask? Here are a few tips for identifying an attempted coupon scam:

Lack of expiration date: Nearly all single-issue coupons have an expiration date. No need to try that coupon from 1966 for a 50 cent gallon of gas. If your coupon(s) don't have an expiration date, there's a good chance they're fakes. No barcode visible on the coupon: The numbers in a barcode should always be visible on the coupon. They identify the manufacturer, the product, and the promotion. Manufacturers use barcodes to track the usage level of any particular promotion. Coupons are essentially a marketing strategy, and tracking barcodes helps identify the effectiveness of that promotion or strategy. If there isn't a barcode on your coupon the sirens in your head should immediately signal a warning. 

Company information is incomplete or sketchy: Most coupons for products are promises from the manufacturer to reimburse the storefront for the coupon value. Since manufacturers do this, they need an address and other info about those storefronts in order to reimburse them. The lack of a visible company name or address is a good general indicator that the coupon is a phony.

Everyone likes to save money, and appropriate use of coupons is certainly of interest to many. Now that coupons are being faked, it is a good idea to be aware of that fact, and spend just a few minutes to determine the authenticity of each particular offer.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit


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