Stores are watching out for counterfeit coupons, most coming from the Internet.
The Coupon Information Corporation tracks counterfeit coupons and puts out alerts to stores and consumers.
See the alerts here: www.couponinformationcenter.com/coupon-fraud-list.php
The problem has reached a point that manufacturers are offering rewards for information that leads to the prosecution of people who make the fake coupons, according to Bud Miller, executive director of the CIC.
The FBI recently announced the arrest of a 22-year-old, accused of making and distributing counterfeit coupons: www.fbi.gov/newyork/press-releases/2011/manhattan-u.s.-attorney-charges-college-student-with-creating-and-disseminating-counterfeit-online-coupons-over-the-internet
Manufacturers, of course, recommend only downloading coupons directly from their sites.
"There's a variety of legitimate websites out there where you can download it directly to your printer. In most cases, you'll never actually see a legitimate coupon appear on your screen. It goes directly to the printer and, generally, you'll be limited to two coupon prints per computer system," said Miller.
The Better Business Bureau offers these tips:
The BBB offers the following advice on redeeming online coupons:
· 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.
· 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.
Local grocery stores say they also try to inform customers of the problem. The assistant auditor for Dierbergs, Stephanie McCarthy, said she believes most customers who try to use a fake coupon are doing so without realizing the coupons are counterfeit. The stores issue alerts to cashiers so they recognize current scams.