Call it the Coupon Generation: Consumers can save hundreds of dollars per year on household essentials and special products by using online coupons. Aside from printed coupons, with the click of a computer mouse, online coupon clipping can significantly lower the cost of goods ranging from food to toilet tissue and just about everything in between. However, Connecticut Better Business Bureau warns that the convenience comes with some risk.
Millions of product coupons are offered online but it’s essential that consumers know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. Some estimates put annual losses due to coupon fraud at $6 million.
According to the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC), the internet is the main reason for the growth in the use of fake coupons because they can easily be modified and printed at home. Because of that, it is more difficult for manufacturers and retailers to institute security measures to combat counterfeits. Unfortunately, consumers can unwittingly end up caught in the middle between coupon sites and retailers because of coupons that are phony or worthless, or require personal information to obtain them from what are in reality, fraudulent sources.
BBB offers the following advice on redeeming online coupons:
Check out who is offering the coupon - Consumers should check to see if a coupon is being offered directly by a store or manufacturer, or a third-party partner or affiliate. Third party issuers may ask for additional personal information to redeem a coupon. If so, BBB recommends using extreme caution before sharing any personal information. Check out the company at www.bbb.org.
Verify whether the coupon is legitimate – The CIC website posts Counterfeit Coupon Alerts that tell you about fake coupons making the rounds and how to identify them, at www.couponinformationcenter.com/.
Be cautious of pop-up offers - BBB advises coupon collectors to be wary of pop-up offers that require you to immediately click to redeem. Clicking a pop-up may automatically sign you up for services you don’t want, resulting in repeating monthly charges on your credit card.
Read the fine print - Carefully read the terms and conditions for the redemption of a coupon. Check the expiration date, limitations on use and whether it is good only for online purchases or if it also can be redeemed at a physical store location.
Will the coupon be honored? - With retailers’ concerns about fraud related to online coupons, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. BBB recommends contacting the store where you wish to use the coupon to find out whether it will be honored.
Be wary of required phone calls - Be extremely cautious if a coupon requires you to call a company to redeem the value of a coupon, and/or has any requirement to divulge 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.
The Coupon Information Corporation also advises consumers to never pay for a coupon from companies or individuals who “sell the service of clipping coupons.” Reselling coupons is illegal. Such websites deny they are selling coupons, but rather selling a service, and covering costs of clipping, managing and mailing coupons.
Founded in 1928, BBB Serving Connecticut is an unbiased, non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior, and is one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.