Beware bargain hunters. That great coupon deal could be too good to be true. Counterfeit coupons are circulating and they are costing companies millions of dollars.
But how do you spot a fake?
Bargain sleuth Jennifer Jacobson Carew writes for the money saving website Green Bay Consumer. She says while shoppers love coupons, so do counterfeiters.
"It is a huge problem. It's one reason stores, especially in our area, have such strict guidelines on which coupons will be accepted," said Carew.
While the average coupon clipper isn't finding fakes, people who go online are finding illegal coupons.
Carew says you'll find coupons that have been altered, like a $2.50 Lysol coupon.
"It originally was probably a 50 cent coupon," said Carew.
"Unsuspecting people will purchase them over the internet, trading site, Craigslist or eBay, they don't know any better. They're just interested in getting that great deal."
At Festival Foods in De Pere, there's no question coupons are popular. Festival finds an insignificant number of counterfeits, in large part because manufacturers now are making changes to internet coupons.
"They've made holograms behind it you can see, and just added a lot of security features that make it more difficult for a counterfeiter to counterfeit," said Tracy Cleaves, Festival Foods front end operations director. "And all of these different numbers and bar codes are linked to our system. So if it doesn't scan it's one of those red flags."
In response to a spike in counterfeit coupons in 2010, Festival Foods started a coupon policy.
"We accept all Festival Foods internet coupons, printed from our site. Other internet coupons, it's anything $3 or under. We do not accept 'free product', or 'buy one get one free,'" said Cleaves.
In a daily bulletin, Festival stores are notified of new counterfeit coupons that are circulating, but they stress to customers that cashiers are not "coupon police."
"We want them to take advantage of these great deals without feeling like, 'oh my gosh, I'm going to be questioned on everything,'" said Cleaves.
They count on customers to use common sense, so couponing can be a win-win for everyone.
"It really is true the old adage: 'if it seems to good to be true, it probably is,'" said Carew.
The best way to protect yourself: never purchase coupons. According to the Coupon Information Corporation, they learn about more counterfeit coupons in a day than they once learned about in a year.
Thursday, July 24 2014 6:56 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:56:51 GMT
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