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Fake Coupons vs Real Coupons: How To Avoid Coupon Scams

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Coupons are a great way to get discounts on everything from groceries to clothes, but you have to be careful not to fall for coupon scams.


What Is a Coupon Con?


Coupon scams, also known as coupon cons or coupon frauds, are any type of scam in which fraudsters use coupons in an illegitimate manner to mislead consumers or retailers and steal money.


For example, scammers can make fake coupons and use them themselves to get huge discounts on products or sell them to unsuspecting shoppers. Or, retailers can manipulate numbers (e.g., prices or sales data) so they aren’t actually losing anything when they offer discounts via coupons.


Who Suffers in Fake Coupon Scams?


Coupon fraud can be committed by both customers and retailers. Whether you own a store that offers coupons or you’re a consumer who uses them, it’s important to know what types of coupon scams to look out for.


What Actions Constitute Coupon Fraud?


1. Copying Coupons


Scammers commonly create counterfeit coupons by simply copying existing coupons and trying to use them at different locations of the same store.

2. Printing Too Many Coupons


Another common way to make fake coupons is to print multiple coupons in order to try and dupe retailers into giving them the same discount more than once.


printing too many coupons is a type of scam

3. Decoding Coupons

All the numbers on a coupon’s barcode indicate something about what it can be used for, so scammers try to decode the numbers and create fake coupons for different products.


4. Buying or Selling Coupons


Coupons are free and intended to be used by the customer they are given to, or their friends or family, but scammers commit coupon fraud by selling coupons to make a profit.


5. Stealing Coupon Circulars


Retailers often send out coupons in newspapers and magazines, and fraudsters go around stealing these to get their hands on all the coupons.


6. Retailer Coupon Fraud: Redeeming Coupons for Unsold Products


In some cases, retailers alter their records to make it look like they sold products using a coupon in order to claim rebates or refunds from suppliers/manufacturers.


Retailer Coupon Fraud: Raise Prices To Counteract Losses


Another type of retailer coupon con involves the retailers raising prices of discounted items, so you think you’re getting a good deal on an item when really you’re paying the original price.


The Biggest Coupon Scam in US History


Using fake coupons is no joke. In 2020, a Virginia Beach woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running a coupon counterfeiting ring that lost retailers an estimated $31.8 million in fake discounts.


The woman, along with her husband, were running coupon cons for approximately 3 years before getting caught. They made fake coupons that were almost identical to real ones, but with much higher discounts, and sold them to bargain hunters via Facebook and Telegram.


In the end, their illicit activities caught up to them, but there are many other coupon scammers out there running similar operations that you need to be on the lookout for.


Biggest coupon scam in the US

How To Tell if a Coupon Is Fake


1. It’s Too Good To Be True


The best way to avoid any type of scam is to be very wary of deals that sound too good to be true. Retailers rarely, if ever, offer crazy deals, like 75% off an item worth hundreds of dollars.


Coupons for small deals on day-to-day products, like groceries and household goods, are much more likely to be authentic.


2. It Looks Photocopied, Scanned, Or Fake-Printed


If you receive a coupon on printer paper and it looks poor quality, there’s a good chance it’s a fake coupon. Also, if a coupon looks like it’s from a magazine or newspaper, it should be printed on both sides.


3. The UPC Is Suspicious

The coupon UPC, or barcode, contains all the information about the deal, so retailers can scan it to apply the discount. Inspect any coupon’s UPC for signs of tampering, such as smudging or evidence of photoshopping.


4. You Are Asked To Pay Up-Front Fees


Coupons are always offered by retailers for free, so you should never have to pay anything to receive a coupon. If someone tries to sell you a coupon, walk away — it’s almost always a scam.


5. The Expiry Date Is Longer Than Normal


Most coupons are only valid for short periods, from a few days to a few weeks, and are rarely valid for more than a month. So, be cautious about any coupons that have long periods of validity.


How To Protect Yourself From Coupon Fraud Allegations


1. Read The Ts&Cs


The “Ts&Cs,” or terms and conditions, are the fine print on a coupon. They specify what the coupon can and can’t be used for and how it has to be applied. The terms and conditions should always match up with the large print on a coupon, so ensure that this is the case before you try to use any coupon.


2. Ask If You Are Unsure


If you are suspicious of a coupon you received, there’s no harm in asking the retailer whether or not it’s legit. That way, there’s no doubt that you are a real customer simply looking for a discount, but you want to make sure the coupon is authentic.



Retailers: Don’t Hand Out Coupons if You Can’t Deal With the Losses!


Though there is more technology than ever for detecting fake coupons, scammers are always finding new creative ways to get around it.


So, if you’re a retailer, make sure you are prepared for the possibility of losing some money to coupon fraud before you start handing out coupons.


Weigh the pros and cons of offering coupon discounts and make sure the positives outweigh the negatives! Should you find yourself victim of a fake coupon scam, contact PayBack the moneyback experts, to get a free consultation and retrieve what's rightfully yours.


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