Coupons are issued by manufacturers to give consumers immediate discounts on the purchase of the specified items, which may be virtually any product found in retail stores.
Most coupons are distributed to consumers in Sunday newspapers in the form of glossy inserts.
You will get an immediate savings in the amount of the value printed on the coupon, if the other terms and conditions of the coupon are satisfied.
The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies. These policies are generally printed on the coupons or are available from the manufacturer upon request. Any sale or transfer voids the coupon.
People purchasing coupons have often been associated with organized criminal activities. They often purchase the coupons as one aspect of a scheme to defraud the coupon issuers/manufacturers, usually by seeking to redeem coupons without purchasing any products. Individuals selling coupons to such crime rings have been charged with and convicted of criminal violations.
What about selling the service of clipping coupons or an envelope that just happens to contain coupons?
Coupons being sold on the Internet or by other means may be stolen property or counterfeit. Individuals attempting to use these coupons may be subject to prosecution.
- Never pay money for a coupon
- Do not download coupons from Internet forums
- If a friend e-mails you coupons, especially high value or free product coupons, the coupons are most likely counterfeit.
- Most manufacturers follow common sense practices about Internet Print-at-Home Coupons, for example, the coupon itself should not be visible on your computer screen.
- Check the counterfeit coupons listed on our web site
If you are approached by one of these groups, you should ask some questions:
- Where do you get the coupons?
- How do you prevent stolen or counterfeit coupons from entering your inventory?
- What are all of the costs and handling fees?
- Has any manufacturer endorsed the organization? (If yes, find out the name and phone number.)
- How many of your distributors are making a profit? Ask for the overall average.
You are urged to call the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at (202) 326-3650 and request a copy of the FTC’s free publication “FACTS FOR CONSUMERS: Costly Coupon Scams.”
The Coupon Information Corporation encourages and supports federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute coupon misredemption.
Law enforcement officials wanting more information should contact the Coupon Information Center.
Coupon fraud costs consumer product manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Coupon fraud also increases costs for consumers and makes it more difficult for honest consumers to legitimately use coupons.
What are the signs of a coupon scam?
- Does it sound too good to be true?
- Is there pressure to commit immediately?
- Are there claims to make extraordinary amounts of money in a short time frame?
- Are there vague or hostile answers to your questions?
- Are there claims that no risks are involved?
- Are there upfront fees to participate?
- Does the deal involve the sale or purchase of manufacturers’ cents-off coupons?
- Are there identical or old endorsements. You might see some great endorsements of the organization. When was the endorsement made? Last month or several years ago? Can you talk directly with the person making the endorsement? Do you see the same statements on numerous web sites?
Keep all your records, including the envelopes of anything associated with the scam that was mailed to you.
Contact the Coupon Information Corporation
Communications will be kept confidential.
Contact one of the law enforcement agencies listed below:
Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov
Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov
Internal Revenue Service: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-you-report-suspected-tax-fraud-activity
U.S. Postal Service: US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
What can I do to protect myself from coupon scams?
- If you are considering becoming involved in a coupon related business opportunity, the CIC urges you to take a few common sense steps to protect yourself.
- Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company and the individuals involved in the “Business Opportunity.”
- Ask if the company has a written refund policy.
- Call the local Better Business Bureau; Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission.
- Find out what the total cost is. What exactly will you get for your money?
- Get everything in writing.
- Reconsider participating if anything appears “fishy” or if any of the signs of a coupon scam are evident. If in doubt, check with either a law enforcement official or a manufacturer.
Don’t forget, never pay for coupons!
As of this date,
Longest prison sentence: 17 years
Highest financial penalty: $5 million
Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon. Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.
Not one defendant has been acquitted in a CIC related coupon fraud case since operations began in 1986.
- Tax evasion
- Money laundering
- Drug dealing
- Food Stamp fraud
- Commercial credit fraud
- And other illegal activities
Coupon misredemption and fraud increase costs for all consumers.
Some con artists specifically target charities, the poor and the elderly as their victims.
The following links will put you in touch with some of the premiere U.S. law enforcement agencies.