After posting about the anatomy of a coupon, I realized it was important to step back and show you a few ways to recognize a fraudulent printable coupon. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common to come across fraudulent or modified coupons.
Follow to steps below to reduce your chances of unknowingly using a fake coupon:
- The coupon is too good to be true: If something is too good to be true, it probably is. A printable coupon for a FREE 12-pack of Pepsi (or $3 off) would raise a huge red flag for me.
- No expiration date or a long expiration date: A coupon must have an expiration date. If there isn’t an expiration date, chances are the coupon is not valid. Having an expiration date longer than 6 months would also signal something may be wrong with the coupon. Most printable coupons are going to be valid around 4-6 weeks depending on the manufacturer.
- Lack of a UPC code: A coupon needs a UPC code to be tracked and to specify the item. If there isn’t a UPC or barcode, don’t try to use the coupon.
- The coupon is a PDF: PDF coupons are becoming increasing rare. They are easy to manipulate and the number of prints is unlimited. While not all PDF coupons are fake, research the coupon if it was emailed to you from a friend or found randomly on the web. Obtaining the PDF coupon directly from a company website or from an email sent to you by a company is the safest course of action when dealing with PDF”s.
- Multiple coupons with the same encrypted 2-D Barcode. This would signal the coupon has been photocopied and isn’t valid.
Also, make sure to use a trusted site for obtaining coupons. The Coupon Challenge and most other bloggers try extremely hard to ensure the coupons we are posting are legitimate. Yes, we can still be fooled. However, we take measures to prevent sharing with you coupons that are fraudulent.
What are the penalties for coupon fraud?
- Longest prison sentence: 17 years
- Highest financial penalty: $5 million
- Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon. Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.
You can find a list of fraudulent coupons on the CIC website.
Next Up: Manufacture vs. Store Coupons
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