“Bait and Switch” Coupon Website Scams: Promise Savings, Deliver Spam

April 15, 2014

Searching for coupons online is an easy way to save money. Unfortunately, it's also an easy way to give your name and contact info to scammers. Be sure to verify a coupon deal is real before sharing your information.

Many consumers making a purchase hope to save money by finding a coupon online. A Google search turns up dozens of websites. Most of the online coupons promise a modest 10%-15% discount. But often times consumers may find one offers a significantly better deal: 50% off your purchase, the catch is you have to enter your personal information before being able to use the coupon. The website may look official and often uses the logo of the business you are searching for discounts for. The website asks you to submit a form including personal information such as your email address and telephone number, promising that your coupon will be sent to you. When you complete the form, you may be taken to a promotion for an unrelated (and possibly untrustworthy) product. It may be anything from car loans to pharmaceuticals. Other sites may provide fake coupons to print, meaning that consumers don't know they were scammed until the store clerk rejects their coupon. 

This "bait and switch" is a way for unscrupulous businesses to collect names and contact info for resale. If your information is sold, you will start receiving spam calls, text messages and/or emails to the contact information you provided. 

How can you tell fake coupons from the real ones?  It is easy to copy a business' logo and make a fake coupon look real. Identify fake coupons by the following warning signs:  

  • It's the only website with that great deal. If most websites offer a code for 10% off, a 75% off offer is likely a scam.
  • Be wary of all high value offers. A promo for a $500 gift card is nearly always fake.
  • Look for legal language and expiration dates. Online coupons need to match manufacturer requirements. 
  • Never pay for coupons. Don't be tricked into paying for something that's actually free.
  • Watch for "bait and switch" tactics. This scam offers you online coupon codes and, once you agree, requires you fill in a form with personal information.  

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