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, and 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. Stock Analysis

    Why did Wal-Mart's Stock Take a Fall in 2015?

    Wal-Mart is the largest company in the world, with a sterling track-record of profits and dividends. So why has its stock fallen sharply in 2015?
  2. Professionals

    4 Must Watch Films and Documentaries for Accountants

    Learn how these must-watch movies for accountants teach about the importance of ethics in a world driven by greed and financial power.
  3. Taxes

    Internet Sales Tax Vs. Brick & Mortar Sales Tax

    Learn about the differences between sales taxes and Internet sales taxes, and the goods and services that typically incur each type of tax.
  4. Entrepreneurship

    How an Internet Sales Tax Will Affect Your Small Business

    Learn about how the Marketplace Fairness Act may impact small business owners should it pass in the House and what the act requires from business owners.
  5. Investing

    Retailers Rebel Against Black Friday: Bad Move?

    The Black Friday creep may have hit a wall as some stores are shutting their doors on Thanksgiving and even Black Friday to give employees the day off.
  6. Investing Basics

    Internet Sales Tax's Effect on Interstate Commerce

    Find out how a national Internet sales tax could affect interstate commerce, and why some bigger online retailers are lobbying for such a tax.
  7. Stock Analysis

    When Will Dick's Sporting Goods Bounce Back? (DKS)

    Is DKS a bargain here?
  8. Stock Analysis

    Home Depot: Can its Shares Continue Climbing?

    Home Depot has outperformed the market by a wide margin in the last 12 months. Is this sustainable?
  9. Stock Analysis

    Has Urban Outfitters Lost its Way? (URBN)

    Urban Outfitters just made a bold move. Will it pay off?
  10. Stock Analysis

    Does TripAdvisor Offer Upside Potential? (TRIP)

    Will TripAdvisor's downside risk outweigh upside potential in 2016? It's most recent SEC filing offers some strong clues.
  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?

    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)?

    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 >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  2. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  3. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  4. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  5. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  6. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
Trading Center