WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: coupon fraud issues

Posted October 21, 2010 12:40 a.m. EDT

This week I received a couple of questions via e-mail regarding specific use of coupons.  I think they should be covered here on the blog - especially since they were asking about using them fraudulently!

The first person asked if she could photocopy coupons and use them at the store. The answer is a big fat NO! It's fraudulent to photocopy coupons and definitely should not be done. Many coupons  have encrypted codes that specify the date and time of printing so retailers can see if a coupon has been photocopied and redeemed multiple times. Guess what, they know if you used the coupon 100 times!

The second question I received was whether you could use a coupon for a specific item on other items not mentioned on the coupon. The reader said that a friend told her she could use some coupons for any of a brands products, even if they were not included on the wording of the coupon. The reader was concerned that something didn't seem quite right. Her instincts were absolutely correct!

You can only use coupons for the products listed on the coupon. Some coupons will sometimes scan for other items that are similar, but that is not the correct use of the coupon and most stores will not allow it. It's called bar code manipulation and is a very fraudulent use of coupons. You definitely don't want to be doing it. 

Now, sometimes a coupon will show a picture of a specific item, but the coupon states it is good on any package of that item. Even if the 8 pack was shown, you can still use it on the 4 pack or the 12 pack because a size was not specified. The key is to follow the wording of the coupon.

Fraudulent use of coupons affects the manufacturers negatively and will end up causing them to offer less coupons to all of us - a very bad result. So, if you know of anyone using coupons fraudulently, please pass on this information to them.

If you have any comments or questions about how to use coupons legitimately, please ask them here.