A sweet coupon is tough to resist, but offers that appear too good to be true can be fraudulent. Coupons are easy to find and have become so popular that con artists have cropped up everywhere.
With a little experience and the following nine tips, you can avoid being taken for a nasty ride.
1. Never pay for coupons. If you have to pay for coupons, you're not really getting a deal.
2. Look for "bait and switch" tactics. This method provides you with online coupon codes and, once you agree, requires you fill in a form with personal information, including your credit-card details, passwords and other financial data. These "phishing" sites can result in your receiving a ton of email spam and a possibly having to deal with identity theft.
3. Look for legal lingo and expiration dates. Online coupons will have the same usage copy as those found in your newspaper. Make sure your coupon includes legal lingo reading: "Not to be altered, copied, transferred, purchased or sold." Coupons lacking this line of copy are often altered copies of old, expired coupons.
4. Avoid online membership clubs or services. Many offer savings you could find elsewhere and require exorbitant fees. There's something very wrong with paying $9.95 to register with a club then paying 10 percent of each coupon's face value and a 75-cent shipping fee.
5. If a store refuses an Internet coupon, write to the merchant's customer service department withthe name of the store, the person with whom you spoke, a copy or link to the coupon and where you got it.
Most retailers are familiar with online coupons by now, so you shouldn't have a problem. Just in case, however, it helps to know many online coupon sources have agreements with grocery store chains. The failure of local store management to accept online coupons may only mean a break-down in training. Alerting the company customer service department should ensure you're able to use your Internet coupons on your next trip to the store.
6. Keep an eye on the cash register. Make sure the printable coupon is applied to your total before you make the purchase. A discount will NEVER appear after you have purchased an item.
7. Use a reputable online coupon site.
8. Go straight to the source. Sign up for emails from the retailers you shop with to get coupons directly from the retailer.
9. Report fraudulent activities to the FTC. To file a complaint, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.