As we saw in part one, taking advantage of coupons costs us all in the long run, whether the fraud is intended or not. Here are some of the more common scams and often-self-motivated mistakes that people make in couponing.
Email coupons suspect
Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corp., wrote that coupons forwarded via email from an individual are generally fake. Even coupons received via email from seemingly legitimate sources should be approached with caution. There are all kinds of phishing scams out there.
Too good to be true
Coupons that promise too much and seem to good to be true, as in all things, probably are.
It is against the law to photocopy or otherwise duplicate coupons in an attempt to gain multiple savings. That includes scanning them into your computer and printing them out. Legitimate coupons have unique print identifiers, and retailers will reject multiple copies.
Cleaning out shelves
Not fraud, but a definite faux pas, is snatching every item off the shelf. Don’t be greedy. Other shoppers and couponers will resent you for hogging all the bargains for yourself. Besides, how many boxes of instant mashed potatoes do you really need anyway?
Another rude and greedy practice is to take the adhesive, or “peelie,” coupons off every item on the shelf to get multiple discounts. They are not all there for you.
Check the fine print
Know the rules of the coupon being used. Things like specified quantity and size of the item covered in the coupon, as well as the expiration date, should be spelled out on your coupon. It is only good under the conditions specified, and any other use is fraud, whether intended or not. Even if the cashier makes a mistake and gives you the discount anyway.
Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com, said:
“Many shoppers think that if a coupon ‘works’ or if a cashier takes it, then it’s a legitimate use of the coupon. Coupon fraud is using a coupon incorrectly, regardless of whether or not the cashier takes it.”
Buying coupons online
Purchasing coupons from online clip sites is also not fraud, but most consumer advocates advise against it.
Couponing maven Jill Cataldo wrote:
“It’s gotten so murky out there, you just don’t know what you’re buying.”
According to the the Coupon Information Corp., any transfer of ownership involving coupons voids their value. The best way to legitimately get multiple valid coupons for the same item, according to Cataldo, is to buy multiple copies of a newspaper.
“These companies never intended for a single shopper to have hundreds of coupons for one item. Buying coupons online to be able to do that may not be coupon fraud, but it’s not a practice that companies will be able to support long term.”