Coupon use has exploded since the Great Recession. According to a study by information management firm Inmar, in 2009 consumers redeemed 3.3 billion coupons which is the highest usage since they started tracking coupon use back in 1988. Businesses issued 367 billion coupons in 2009 and roughly ten percent of those were cashed in. According to Inc. Magazine, Google searches for the phrases "printable coupons" and "online printable coupons" more than doubled. But while the popularity of coupons has skyrocketed, so have the cases of coupon fraud. Some consumers may be unknowingly using fake coupons to save money on groceries or household supplies. But coupon fraud is serious so here are some ways to make sure you're not taking part.
Don't Pay for Coupons
Rayven Perkins, the mom behind Stay-a-Stay-at-Home-Mom.com says when you are purchasing coupon files off sites like eBay you may be buying fakes. Rayven says you have no way of knowing whether they were photocopied or received legitimately.
Review Counterfeit Coupons
The Coupon Information Corporation, a non-profit association of consumer product manufacturers dedicated to fighting coupon fraud, keeps an updated list of identified counterfeit coupons. You'll notice that many of the coupons on this list are high value coupons or even coupons for free items. Visit this list regularly to make sure you don't have any of these fakes in your possession.
Don't Photocopy a Coupon
Most coupons have a unique number sequence that can not be replicated. When you print a coupon off online from a legitimate source you are likely only able to print that coupon once, twice or three times at the most. By photocopying a coupon you are committing coupon fraud.
Be Cautious of "Free" Coupons
Rayven says that companies will rarely allow consumers to print coupons for free items off the Internet. "Most are mailed to deter fraud," she says. " Second, never will a couponer have the ability to print as many "free" coupons as they would like to from a PDF file." Both of these should serve as red flags for coupon fraud.
Stick to Familiar Sources
You know you are engaged in responsible couponing when you clip or print coupons from legitimate, trusted sources. A recent survey found that the most popular online coupon sources are Coupons.com, Smartsource.com and ValPak.com. Stick to these and you will never be taking part in coupon fraud.