An online search for coupons will return a wealth of websites. Most online coupons promise a modest 10%-15% discount. However, if any offers a significantly better deal, such as 50% off your purchase, beware.
Here is how scam coupon sites work: websites illegally use the logo of a business and ask you to enter your email address and telephone number, with the promise that your coupon will be sent to you.
Once you complete the form, you may be taken to a promotion for an unrelated (and untrustworthy) product. It could be anything from car loans to pharmaceuticals. Other scam sites provide fake coupons to print, meaning that you won’t know you were scammed until the store clerk rejects your coupon.
This “bait and switch” is a way for unscrupulous businesses to collect names and contact information for resale. Once that happens, you will start receiving spam calls, text messages and/or emails through the contact information you provided.
While it is easy to copy a business’ logo and make a fake coupon look real, you can identify fake coupons by looking for any one of several 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 promotion for a $500 gift card is nearly always fake.
Look for legal language and expiration dates – Online coupons must match manufacturers’ requirements.
You are asked to pay – Don’t be tricked into paying for something that should be 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.
If you suspect that a coupon is fake, check to see if it is on the list at the Counterfeit Notifications section of the non-profit Coupon Information Center (http://www.couponinformationcenter.com) which maintains a list of companies whose names have been used by criminals who offer fraudulent coupons.
When in doubt, contact the company directly to determine the legitimacy of a coupon or rebate certificate.