Are You Committing Coupon Fraud?
The popularity of the television show ‘Extreme Couponing’ has created an unprecedented level of interest in using coupons to save money. Those highlighted on the show use extreme measures to save tremendous amounts of money and often stockpile canned and boxed food, health and beauty products, and household items.
Unfortunately, the increased interest in couponing has also created new opportunities for coupon fraud. Many grocery stores and big box chains now regularly train their cashiers to be on the lookout for customers committing coupon fraud.
Though it may seem like a victimless crime, coupon fraud costs manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Plus, the penalties for committing coupon fraud are no joke – the longest prison sentence issued for coupon fraud was 17 years, and fines of $200,000 and up are not uncommon.
But don’t let the fear of committing coupon fraud keep you from saving money on your grocery and household expenses. Here’s what you need to know to avoid committing coupon fraud.
• Don’t use expired coupons — even if they scan, the store will not be reimbursed for expired coupons.
• Read the fine print – redeem coupons only for the product size, type and quantity listed on the coupon.
• Get coupons from reputable sources – the Sunday paper, the store’s own circular or website, manufacturers’ websites, and dedicated coupon sites such as Red Plum, SmartSource and Coupons.com are all good sources of valid coupons. And don’t be tempted to purchase coupons in bulk; that’s considered coupon fraud, too.
• Look for the barcode – legitimate coupons will have a unique barcode that’s easy to find and scan.
• Use common sense – if a coupon seems ‘too good to be true,’ it probably is. If you suspect a coupon might be fraudulent, check the list of counterfeit coupons published by the Coupon Information Corporation, a not-for-profit industry watchdog that tracks and prosecutes coupon fraud.