Home » Being Aware of Coupon Fraud – Protecting Yourself

Misusing coupons is the biggest forms of coupon fraud. This article discusses coupon fraud and how you can protect yourself against it.

Misusing coupons is the biggest forms of coupon fraud. This article discusses coupon fraud and how you can protect yourself against it.

Misusing  coupons is the biggest forms of coupon fraud, but did you know that you can be doing it without even knowing?  Being Aware of Coupon Fraud – Protecting Yourself is a very important factor to couponing. I know you may be trying your hardest to follow all the rules. You read the coupon, you purchase the items as stated on the coupon, follow you store’s coupon policy and check out, BUT ops you had no clue that you just committed fraud. Let’s explore what could have occurred.

You can’t write an article on the extreme use of coupons without also discussing Coupon Fraud.

There are lots of coupons out on the internet that aren’t “good” coupons.  There are also lots of ways to misuse a coupon.

Coupon fraud is a punishable offense and, while penalties vary case by case, the Coupon Information Corporation (aka, the CICI) says that the harshest convictions for this type of fraud include a 17-year prison sentence and a financial penalty of up to $5 million. Coupon Fraud is very serious. Taking coupon skills to the extreme and going so far as to end up in coupon fraud territory costs manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And you know who is the real person paying that bill? US!

Being Aware of Coupon Fraud – Protecting Yourself

Review these simple rules to make sure you stay on the right path in couponing.  It always hurts me when I see others abusing the system.  Especially after hearing stores are no longer accepting select coupons or stores are no longer participating in amazing promotions due to fraud.

Being Aware of Couponing Fraud - Protecting Yourself

Always follow the words on the coupon

If a coupon states ” valid on 6oz box only” then you should be purchasing that size indicated.  Using your coupons for something other than the product(s) stated on the coupon is unethical and fraudulent. The verbiage on the coupon itself if very important. It tells use what products we can purchase with that coupon.

Please Note; When you see a post on social media that is openly discussing and advocating coupon fraud stay far away. You may see them referring to “decoding coupon bar codes” or exploit “glitches” which allow you to use high-value coupons on lower-priced products for which they’re not intended. This is entering into the world of coupon fraud.

It is frustrating to see and hear about coupon fraud often. When you are following the rules to couponing you will ALWAY get FREE items, save BIG on groceries and NEVER have to go to jail.

Don’t intentionally use expired coupons

If your store manage has said that it is okay, you should still ask before using one on every trip to the store.  Most stores DO NOT allow as stated within their policy. Using a coupon past the expiration date is ONLY acceptable if you have an attached rain check that you obtained before the sale was over (and before the coupon had expired) and has been approved by the store itself.

Don’t copy coupons

There are many security features built into printable coupons to prevent fraud. Each printed coupon is given a unique bar code. While they may scan in the grocery store – the store will never get reimbursed for them. Once scanned at the register that unique bar code is noted, the store will then be reimbursed for that  item associated with that bar code. If it is copied and used and not caught the store will only get reimbursed for that first unique scan.

To put this into lay person terms:

Being Aware of Couponing Fraud -anatomy of a printed coupon

  1. The unique 2-D barcode on the upper right is a different number for every coupon you print, even for a second print of the same coupon.
  2. The dotted line around the entire coupon is really text.  It has your user id, the date and time and coupon offer information printed – repeating at least 35 times around the coupon.  This is also printed at the bottom of the expiration date box.
  3. The long barcode at the bottom also has a portion of the unique 2-D barcode number in it.  These barcodes are much more specific and very soon will be the barcode that is scanned in all stores!


Coupons sent via email

There are many coupons that are sent via email for FREE products.  These emails may be sent from friends who spotted them from another email they received. These coupon emails fall into the “too good to be true category”.  Keep in mind that most of these coupon emails are directly related to someone scanning in a coupon that they have received directly from a manufacture.

First, don’t get mad at the person that sent it to you, they have been passed around for years.  Manufacturers rarely if ever release printable coupons for free products and if they do send our FREE coupons they are typically send via snail mail or though a .pdf file printable

How do you know if the coupon that was just emailed to you is considered fraud? Check out this  FULL LIST OF COUPONS THAT ARE Marked as FRAUDULENT.

To see the complete Inspiring Savings Database of Good Coupons to Use, Go Here

Don’t Resell Products

Coupons contain the verbiage found within the fin print at the bottom (see image above) that state “they cannot be used on items for resale”. It can also be stated as fraud (which is punishable by law).  When I speak about coupon fraud at my grocery savings workshops, most of the people I encounter are horrified to think that people sell items they got for FREE. But it happens all the time, and it is usually for good intentions!

There thought on it is that they are saving shoppers money because they pay less at their garage sale then they would pay at the grocery stores.


 Coupons are intended to give individual consumers a good deal, not to provide a method for people to set up mini shopping marts in their garages, yard sales or on the internet. This also might also be in violation of local health codes. It is clearly a violation to use coupons on items being purchased for resale. The bottom line is this: if you get something for free (or are paid to buy it) then give it away.

Bless the socks off of someone with your donated goods. We live in a world filled with greed. Don’t be that person.

What are the Consequences of Coupon Fraud?

Being Aware of Couponing Fraud - following the law

Most people who commit coupon fraud willingly continue to do it because they have not been caught and they feel they are saving their family money. BUT in reality they have not only commit fraud but have lost their integrity. Coupon fraud is serious business.

    • The cost of coupon “misredemption” to manufacturers annually is estimated to be over 300 million dollars. That is an incredibly large number and manufactures are cracking down. Most of the state of Florida is no longer receiving the Red Plum Coupon insert due to misuse.
    • Coupon Fraud is prosecuted.  Meet the CIC (or Coupon Information Corporation), they prosecute coupon fraud and boast about having never lost a case since 1986. They are now working side by side with Facebook to crack down on couponing groups who are supporting misuse.


The penalties they have seen:
Longest prison sentence: 17 years
Highest financial penalty: $5 million
Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon.
Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.

After reading this short article I hope that you can now walk away feeling more knowledgeable about couponing and how you can prevent it.  You may also want to read my article on “Couponing with Integrity

If you suspect someone you know is committing coupon fraud, please contact one of these law enforcement agencies:

Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov
Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov
Internal Revenue Service: http://www.irs.ustreas.gov
U.S. Postal Service: US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)

Resources: Coupon Information Corporation

Other Valuable Couponing Resources

How NOT To Get Burnt Out From Couponing

Become A Savings Whiz By Knowing The Coupon Lingo, Plus Insider Tips

How to Stack Coupons

4 Practical Tips: How to Coupon with Etiquette

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