Online coupons are more popular than ever, but shoppers need to beware of the fakes, because they are costly.
"For every coupon that is successfully counterfeited it costs the manufacturer approximately one million dollars," said Roberta Bottoms, U.S. Postal Inspector.
These costly counterfeit coupons are usually sold on the Internet.
"Customers went online and were the winning bidder on some Internet auctions," said Bottoms.
Once the site had contact information, consumers would be messaged or emailed asking if they would like to buy a large amount of coupons.
"So the initial online auction was just basically for them to find people that they could then sell a large number of coupons to over a long period of time," said Bottoms.
Postal inspectors learned the coupons were fakes.
"Initially, these counterfeits will scan and be accepted at your local retail company, but it is costing the manufacturer money and in turn costs the consumer money," said Bottoms.
The non-profit watchdog group Coupon Information Corporation says coupon fraud is costing manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Manufacturers say they are forced to pass along these losses by raising their prices.
"The manufacturers have put retail establishments on notice that they will no longer reimburse them," said Bottoms.
The bottom line: never pay for a coupon.
"Most people use coupons to save money, and in this case you might be actually wasting your money."
How can you tell if a coupon is a fake? Monday on Action 2 News at 10, Tammy Elliott asks a local bargain sleuth for some tips to help prevent shoppers from unknowingly committing coupon fraud, and finds out how one local grocery store fights coupon fraud.
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