Counterfeit Coupon Operation Busted in Phoenix | How to Stay Away from Fakes
If you follow the news then you probably heard that a large counterfeit coupon operation was busted in Phoenix today and when I say “large”, I mean one of the biggest in history with over $25 million dollars of coupons. I’m not excited that this fraud was found in my home state, and city – but I’m glad these frauds were caught and arrested.
I’m also glad this is bringing awareness of coupon fraud to light AND it shows that you should never buy coupons.
I know many of you are concerned about using fraudulent coupons and how you can know for sure that you aren’t using them. Many of you have tweeted, emailed, and sent me private messages, so I wanted to publicly respond to all of you.
First, please remember that coupons are NOT the enemy. Using coupons on your grocery bill can still save you at least 50%. The most important point is to make sure that you are using coupons ethically.
So, how can you know you are using coupons correctly?
1. Use coupons on the correct products – don’t try to cheat the system here. If a product is for salsa and you try to use it on cheese sauce, that is fraud. We all like to save money, but not following the rules is just plain stealing. Using a coupon on a product that it is not intended for (sometimes referred to as coupon decoding) is fraud similar to shoplifting.
2. Coupons can NOT be copied. This is counterfeiting and is a criminal offense. Read more about why in my post Is it OK to Copy Printable Coupons?
3. Don’t use coupons past the expiration date – but don’t throw them away. You can donate them to Military Families Overseas.
4. Follow store coupon policies. Know the store policies that you are shopping at. You can find policies on a store’s website, sometimes their Facebook page or you can also ask a store manager for a copy.
5. Never pay for coupons – yes, I know many of you want to get extra coupons and may have paid for “coupon clipping services” – AND here is the problem. How do you know that you are getting a legitimate coupon? How do you know it wasn’t stolen? Many people bought from the site (and eBay) that was at the center of this counterfeit ring – and they had no idea that the coupons they paid for were fake. BUT using them is fraud and you can be prosecuted.
Plus, buying coupons is illegal and against the manufacturer’s policies. Why pay for something that you can get FREE? There are plenty of ways for you to increase your coupon stash, without paying for coupons. I strongly urge you to stop purchasing your coupons
Want to know more about the counterfeit coupon bust in Phoenix? Check out the news story below:
What are some signs of a Counterfeit Coupon?
- The coupons are usually high value or for FREE products. You’ll notice in the news article above, many of the coupons are actually FREE product coupons. You should only ever get FREE product coupons directly from a manufacturer to ensure you are getting real coupons.
- Check the fine print. Most coupons state in the fine print that they cannot be bought or sold. Counterfeit coupons many times leave this statement off or don’t include the whole thing.
- Check the expiration date. Fraudulent coupons usually have an extremely long expiration date (a year or more out).
- Don’t purchase internet printable coupons. Most likely they were photocopied, which is illegal.
- If a coupon seems “to good to be true” then it probably is. When in doubt, just don’t use a coupon that you think may be “fishy” – the fines that you can get are not worth it!
The CIC takes Coupon Fraud very seriously and will prosecute. And there are some pretty hefty penalties for coupon fraud. According to the CIC:
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.
If you are in Arizona and want to know more about how to use coupons in a REALISTIC way to save at least 50% on your grocery bill each month you can sign up for attend an Arizona Grocery Savings and Coupon Class. I am happy to help you learn how to save and have fun doing it.
If you aren’t in AZ or can’t make a class, please feel free to leave me questions here – I am more than happy to help you on your savings journey!
So what are your thoughts? Does this type of coupon fraud surprise you? Have you purchased coupons in the past or would you continue to do so in the future?