Apr 19, 2011

How To Spot A Fraudulent Coupon!


Survival Tip Tuesday
One of the questions that I get most often in my inbox from STS readers is how to tell if a certain coupon is legitimate or not.

With coupon usage on the rise (especially since the airing of Extreme Couponing) this is definitely a question that needs to be addressed!

Here are a three tips for spotting a fraudulent coupon:

1.  Stay away from “FREE item” printable coupons.

It is rare that a company will put out a pdf or jpg coupon for a free product.  In the past 3 (almost!) years that I’ve been running STS I’ve seen legitimate free product pdf or jpg coupons only a handful of times… and it usually ended up in a mess.

99.9% of the time, a free item printable coupon is not legitimate.

Here’s an example from the Coupon Information Corporation of a coupon that has been tampered with and distributed on Ebay and via email:

2.  Be very careful about the pdf and jpg coupons you use.

Our policy here at Surviving The Stores is to only post about pdf or jpg coupons that we are certain came directly from the manufacturer.  If you see a coupon that you can print multiple times (like a pdf or jpg) and it’s hosted somewhere other than the company’s website, the company’s Facebook page, or a marketing website (some companies publish and host their coupons through marketing companies), be warned that it could very likely be fraudulent.

Also, it is much more likely that you will see pdf and jpg coupons for Restaurants and Retail Stores.  Multiple-print coupons for actual products at the grocery stores are the ones that are the concern.

Here’s an example of a coupon that was likely photocopied and then distributed on message boards and via email:

3.  Check with the CIC’s fraudulent coupon list.

The Coupon Information Corporation keeps an up to date list of the fraudulent coupons that are circulating the web.

Just like we all go to Snopes.com when we get an email that sounds fishy, we can go to the CIC’s website when we see a coupon that looks like it’s not legit.

On most of the coupons that the CIC lists they also have an explanation of why the coupon isn’t valid.

Feel free to share any other tips in the comments section for recognizing fraudulent coupons!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. When Publix pulls out a Swat Team on ya , lol

  2. only kidding, never had one that was fradulent,, but would appreciate the tips so I can avoid it..

  3. First of, if it sounds too good to be true, bells and whistles go off. I always watch the expiration dates too. 6 months or more is a little suspicious! Also, stick with groups like yours, and coupons.com, or Smart Source, etc — not some fly by night groups. Those are my tips. 🙂

  4. Great information THANKS!!!

  5. CIC tries its best, but that last coupon they posted ($2/2 Carefree, Listerne, etc.) was a VALID coupon!! They have since removed the coupon on their list, but how many people disposed of the coupon or where harassed at their stores for trying to use it.

    • It still is a valid coupon. The CIC posted an update for that one… it’s a specific coupon number that is being copied and posted around the web. The coupon in general is still valid, just not that particular number.

      I agree though that it’s frustrating that so many stores will see that coupon and think that it’s all of the $2/2 ones.

  6. Thanks for the info…..I agree with Carol, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t!

  7. I was just in walmart last week, I have never knowingly used a fraudulent coupon. They pulled my two scotch tape coupons and said they were photo copied. They treated me like crap. I printed the coupons off the 3m website. They told me the number on the coupon should be different from each other. The website allowed me to print 2. I know abuse has gotten bad but I had 17 items and with 3 coupons. How do you avoid the embarassment and questioning, and still use coupons..

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