Everyone loves a deal, but some coupons promise savings that are just too good to be true. And in most cases, that's a sign of fraud.
Consumers are redeeming more coupons than ever these days, using paper coupons from newspapers and other periodicals as well as coupons they find online. Most coupons promise modest discounts of 10 to 15 percent, but some offer significantly better deals, such as 50 percent off your purchase. The Better Business Bureau warns that extremely high discounts often are signs of a scam.
Online coupon sites may ask you to enter your email address and telephone number, promising that the coupon can be sent to you. This can open you up to unwanted phone calls, text messages or emails that expose you to potential fraud or identity theft. Other sites allow you to print coupons, but you don't realize they're fake until you try to redeem them at stores.
The BBB has 10 tips to help you weed out the fake coupons from good ones:
- The website is the only one with that great deal. If most websites offer 10 percent off, a 75 percent discount is likely a scam.
- Be wary of all high value offers. A promo for a $500 gift card is nearly always fake.
- Never pay for coupons. Don't be tricked into paying for something that's actually free.
- If you suspect that a coupon is fake, check it against this list, maintained by the non-profit Coupon Information Center.
- Check to see if the coupon is being offered directly by the store or by a third party. If it’s from a third party, a store may ask for more information or require that the consumer sign up for additional services to redeem the coupon. If so, the BBB recommends using extreme caution before divulging any personal information.
- Be wary of pop-up ad coupon offers that require you to click immediately to redeem the offer. Clicking on the ad may automatically sign a consumer up for services they were not interested in receiving. In some cases, the consumer may be billed every month for unwanted services.
- Carefully read the terms and conditions for each coupon. Check the expiration date, limitations of use and whether it is good only for online purchases or can be redeemed at a store as well. Online coupons need to match manufacturer requirements.
- Because some stores are concerned about fraud related to online coupons, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. The BBB recommends contacting stores to determine their policy for online coupons. Show them coupons before you try to redeem them.
- Be extremely cautious if the coupon requires that you call the company to redeem the coupon or requires you to divulge personal information.
- Don’t fall for phony coupons sent via e-mail. Just because it may come from a friend or family member, don’t assume a coupon is legitimate.