Consumers Using Online Coupons Must Avoid Getting Clipped By Fraudulent Offers, Says the Better Business Bureau

July 08, 2014

Consumers can legitimately save hundreds of dollars per year on household essentials and special products. Everything from food to toilet tissue and coupon clipping has become as easy as a click of your mouse. However, along with that ease comes risk, says the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Millions of product coupons are offered online but it’s imperative that consumers know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. Recent reports state that bogus coupons circulating on the internet are worth up to $600 million dollars a year.

“There are scams that impact individual consumers and others where unsuspecting charities get ripped-off,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Money savers need to do their homework before getting involved in any online offers or “business opportunities” that involve the selling of coupon books or the purchase, selling or transfer of coupons.”

According to the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC), the internet is the key reason for the growth in the use of fake coupons.  Previously, they were distributed in newspaper inserts or by mail. Today, they can easily be printed at home. However, because of that, it is more difficult to build in specific security measures.

The BBB offers the following advice on redeeming online coupons:

  • Check out who is offering the coupon. Consumers should check to see if the coupon is being offered directly by the store, or if it is being offered by a third-party such as a partner or affiliate. If it is via a third-party, they might ask for additional info or require the consumer sign up for services to redeem the coupon. If so, the BBB recommends using extreme caution before sharing any personal information. Check out the company, free of charge, at
  • Be cautious of pop-up offers. The BBB advises coupon clickers to be wary of pop-up ad coupon offers that require you to immediately click to redeem. Clicking on the ad may automatically sign the consumer up for services they were not interested in receiving, causing them to be billed every month.
  • Read the fine print. Carefully read the terms and conditions for the use of the coupon. Check for the expiration date, limitations of use and whether it is an online coupon good for only online purchases or if it can also be redeemed at the physical store location.
  • Will the coupon be honored? With some stores concerned about fraud related to online coupons, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. The BBB recommends contacting the store where you wish to use the coupon directly to find out whether the coupon is being honored or not.
  • Be wary of required phone calls. Be extremely cautious if the coupon requires the consumer call the company to redeem the value of the coupon, and/or has any requirement to give personal information.
  • Don’t fall for phony coupons via e-mail. Many fake coupons have been making the rounds via e-mail. Just because it may come from a friend or family member, don’t assume the coupon is legitimate.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.