Coupon fraud behind some new policies

June 15, 2011 3:13:14 PM PDT
With more and more consumers using coupons these days, it's no wonder that coupon fraud is a big business and stores, corporations and the companies that print coupons are tightening restrictions, but it's doesn't mean you still can't save money. It doesn't make national headlines, but there have been many arrests of coupon crime rings and individuals. The reason why that's a big deal is because it has a trickledown effect to consumers who want to legitimately use coupons.

"Every penny does count and coupons do help when I can use them," shopper Alyssa Pullen said.

Even in their early 20s, college students Alyssa Pullen and Allison Palmer know the value of a coupon. But the two friends have noticed some stores have recently made coupon policy changes, some of which stems from coupon fraud.

"I hate people who do not follow the rules. I've always been that way and it's like, if it says limit one per customer, limit one per customer, the end," shopper Allison Palmer said.

Amanda Grossman, author of a blog called FrugalConfessions.com found in her research some criminals are either selling fraudulent coupons or making money off the products they got for free using fraudulent coupons.

"People are making up fraudulent coupons or altering internet printable coupons or making photocopies of coupons, selling these on the internet and they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars," Grossman said.

Other shoppers are committing fraud by decoding coupons. That's why you will now see additional bar codes on coupons meant to make it tougher to use on products that don't apply. The fine print is also changing; companies like the manufacturer of Colgate are now putting limits on how many coupons you can use.

"No more than four coupons, for the same product, in the same transaction. That is brand new," Grossman said.

Even our own Super Saver Erin Libranda has found some pushback from stores that are limiting the number of coupons you can use. She recently had a run-in at the Target in Katy.

"We went in, for instance, and bought dog food and had, you know, 10 coupons and they would only let us use four per order, per day," Libranda said.

Target's policy says it's up to each individual target store to limit the number of like coupons. At the Target on South Main, the store has a limit of five like coupons you can use.

"We want to make sure that we have that opportunity for everyone to be able to shop in the store and find what they're looking for," Target spokesperson Maria Jimenez said.

But Target points out they accept both manufacturer coupons and store coupons for one item and they also accept printable coupons from the internet and mobile coupons so there are still plenty of ways to save.

At Walmart, their coupon policy was recently changed. They no longer limit the number of coupons you can use and if your coupon nets you money back, they will apply the overage to your bill.

"Their coupon policy has opened up and become very flexible," Grossman said.

At Kroger, they have digital coupons that you can use on your Kroger Plus card and at HEB, they have all the coupons located in front of their products.

If you are going to be using coupons, our experts suggest you call ahead and speak to a store manager to find out exactly what their coupon policy is. This may be a hassle but at least you won't waste your time with coupons that are not accepted.


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