The art of clipping coupons was once reserved for savvy housewives who wanted to save a few bucks on their grocery bill. Today, people of all ages, genders and social/economic backgrounds are searching for deals on everything from airline tickets to restaurant meals and spa treatments. The internet provides a plethora of options for getting discounts on products and services, but for every legitimate offer there are a slew of frauds. The consequences for the consumer can include embarrassment at the checkout line, losing money, computer viruses and even jail time. Here are some tips to avoid the fakes and remedy the situation if you have already bought in. (For related reading, also take a look at 6 Ways To Save Online.)

IN PICTURES: 5 Ways To Control Emotional Spending

Choose a Reputable Source
The internet is overloaded with coupon offers, so it is important to sift through all the offerings carefully. Do your research on the company that is promoting the coupon. Ask friends if they have used the website before or check online message boards. An online search that contains the name of the business and the words "fraud" or "scam" can save you some heartache.

Take a Closer Look
The physical look of the coupon can provide tell-tale signs to determine if it is real. There are a number of things that retailers do to avoid counterfeits. Most legitimate coupons will contain a bar code and have a watermark. Retailers generally do not show the coupon online. Also, consider the offer. If it is too good to be true, then it's probably a fraud. There should usually be an expiration date and it should be reasonable (for example, six months to redeem a free flat screen TV is a red flag). If there is a printable coupon for a free product without purchase, don't be tempted. These types of deals are only offered through mail-in rebates.

IN PICTURES: 10 Ways To Cut Your Food Costs

Let Someone Know
Once you have discovered that your discount is a dupe, you should report it to the authorities. The Coupon Information Corporation is a non-profit organization that fights coupon fraud. They post counterfeit notifications on their website. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service or the U.S. Postal Service. Make sure that you include all of the records associated with the coupon when you file a report.

Minimize Your Losses
The new trend in coupons is buying deals from sites like groupon.com, livesocial.com and restaurant.com. If you decide that you no longer want the coupon, you can chalk it up as a loss or try to sell it to get your money back. One option is to sell the coupon on eBay or Craigslist. The rule of thumb is to sell the coupon for the purchase price, or less if the expiration date is near. There are also websites that specialize in the resale of daily deals and vouchers. Many of these sites take a commission on the sale of the coupon, but they are worth using because they offer a money-back guarantee for buyers and facilitate the sale. These sites are especially helpful when trying to unload big ticket coupons that people might be more leery to purchase without protection. It is important to note that you cannot sell traditional, free manufacturer coupons that you get out of newspapers or download online. The redemption policies are outlined on the coupon.

The Bottom Line
In these hard economic times, everyone is searching for a deal. While there are many to be had for virtually all products and services, there are just as many frauds. It is essential to know how to spot fake deals and also what to do if you get scammed. (For additional reading, check out 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Coupons.)

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    Just the Right Book Review: Is It Worth It?

    Take an in-depth look at Just the Right Book, a subscription service that delivers personalized book selections based on your reading history and preferences.
  2. Budgeting

    The Honest Company Bundles Review: Are They Worth It?

    Learn more about The Honest Company and its bundle subscription services, which deliver discounted diapers, formula and other baby products to your doorstep.
  3. Budgeting

    Bark Box Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if BarkBox, the leading e-commerce subscription service for monthly doggie surprise boxes of treats and toys, is worth all the hype.
  4. Budgeting

    Blue Apron Review: Is It Worth It?

    Read about one of the top meal-kit delivery services in the United States, and learn more about what it offers and how much it costs.
  5. Investing News

    3 Amazon Business Segments to Watch in 2016

    We'll look at three divisions of Amazon that are likely to perform well in 2016.
  6. Budgeting

    Bespoke Post Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if Bespoke Post, the fast-growing, e-commerce subscription service for men's lifestyle and grooming products, is worth all of the hype in this review.
  7. Stock Analysis

    3 Predictions for Amazon in 2016 (AMZN)

    Learn the top three predictions for Amazon in 2016 as the company comes off an exceptional year in terms of revenue and expands into new markets.
  8. Stock Analysis

    5 Reasons Alibaba's Earnings Disappointed in 2015 (BABA)

    Look at the reasons why Alibaba's earnings disappointed in 2015, including weak economic growth, the soft renminbi and allegations of counterfeit products.
  9. Investing

    Seven Sustainable Retail Dividends

    Seven retailers which pat sustainable dividends when examining both the companies' payout ratios and free cash flows.
  10. Budgeting

    Craft Coffee Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about one of the first and most flexible specialty-grade coffee subscription services on the market, a perfect fit for any coffee lover.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is QVC publicly traded? (QVCA, QVCB)

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does consumer protection cover my debts?

    The most impactful consumer protection laws and regulations in the United States are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)? (AMZN, W)

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are some high-profile examples of wash trading schemes?

    In 2012, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was accused of a complex wash trading scheme to profit from a Canadian tax provision, ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Harry Potter Stock Index

    A collection of stocks from companies related to the "Harry Potter" series franchise. Created by StockPickr, this index seeks ...
  2. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  3. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  4. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  5. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
Trading Center