FAQ: What is Coupon Fraud?

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Coupon Fraud = GO TO JAIL. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

Not really.

Kind of.

The definition of coupon fraud is using coupons illegally. Illegal use means you defraud the system and can be prosecuted.

The chances that you are actually prosecuted is slim. (Unless you were the folks at Simon Marketing who defrauded millions with McDonald’s Monopoly Game. True story – it had the FBI involved.)

However, when you use coupons illegally, you hurt your store because they will not get reimbursed for the coupon.

If this happens enough times, the store may decide to limit the dollar amount off for internet coupons or stop taking internet coupons all together. (We’ve seen both of these scenarios in Kansas City.)

Because I know how important coupons are to your life and how you wouldn’t want to go to jail (just kidding), I thought I would share some examples of coupon fraud.

Photocopying Internet Coupons

Each printable coupon has an individual code attached to it. If the reimbursement center finds two of the exact same codes, it will give credit (reimbursement) to the first coupon, but not the second. The store loses out. Don’t photocopy – print out your coupons from the computer.

Using Expired Coupons

Just because the coupon doesn’t “beep” doesn’t mean you should use it. Unless a store gives EXPLICIT direction that they accept expired coupons – don’t use them. Again, the store may not get reimbursed for expired coupons.

Using coupons you receive in an email from your buddy

If the coupon you receive is a .pdf, .jpeg, or .tiff file – 99% of the time it is a fake coupon. Also, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. (Remember, the FREE bag of Doritos coupon?)

In rare cases, companies will produce a coupon in a .pdf, but that coupon will come from the manufacturer website, not from your buddy’s email.

Using multiple coupons for one item

The rule is one coupon value per one item. If you buy one item, you can use one $1/1 coupon. If you buy two items, you can use (2) $1/1 coupons or $1/2 coupon.

You can not use (2) $1/1 coupons for one item. It’s wrong. Don’t do it.

Could you get away with all of these scenarios plus more?


Stores want to give good customer service, so many times they will “push” coupons through if the register “beeps”. As coupon users, it is our job to hold ourselves to the highest ethical standard of coupon use. By doing the “right” thing, we allow coupon acceptance to continue. However, if too many people complete “shady” deals, the restrictions on internet coupon usage will continue to increase.

There are so many great deals available to us by using coupons ethically, that it isn’t worth the heartache to complete a “dirty” deal.

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  1. Christine says

    Kuddos to you for this post! I am a huge advocate of proper use of coupons and encourage other peers to have high standards as well. It is a big disappointment to me when I experience others misuse of the “system.” Your post is very well written!

  2. says

    It’s so important that we all work together to use coupons properly, so that we all continue to save the family money.
    I just learned today that a local free paper, that had a $10 off grocery coupon, was being swiped by people and the coupons were being sold on ebay! The paper will not have the coupon in it next month. All because a handful of people “misused” them, and it now effects us all.
    Good Post Kelly, Thanks

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