Fraudulent Coupons Resource


Since I have been running this blog, I have received emails from readers sharing helpful tips and their coupon finds. A couple of times I received emails from readers wanting to share a fabulous coupon they have. Sadly, both times I have had to let the readers know that those coupons are fraudulent. I know it was not the readers intention to promote the use of a fraudulent coupon and that they were actually not aware those coupons were fraudulent.

If you have ever received a coupon via email for a free item, or maybe you are hearing about a coupon that you think is too good to be true, you can visit the Coupon Information Center to verify the authenticity of those coupons. The Coupon Information Center (CIC) is an entity dedicated to fighting coupon fraud and they work closely with manufacturers and retailer to fight coupon misredemption and fraud. They keep a list of coupons that have been identified as fraudulent by the manufacturers and if you are ever in doubt I recommend that you remember this resource and check the list to check the validity of your coupons.

Unfortunately, the process may take some time. So I urge you to use some common sense and follow some of these tips:

  1. If you received a coupon in pdf or jpg form that you think it’s too good to be true; it most likely is. Coupons for free items that can be printed from your home computer should set off a red flag for you, unless you can verify that the coupon can be found on the manufacturer website.
  2. If you don’t see your printable coupon listed on the CIC website check Hotcouponworld’s forum “It’s Got to be Real” that also keeps track and identify questionable coupons.
  3. Always be wary of “buying” FREE item coupons that you know did not come from a newspaper insert on Ebay.
  4. Always be concerned when a seller has more than one free item coupon on sale and it is selling multiples of it. FREE item coupons are usually mailed directly from the manufacturer to the consumer. They almost always have a watermark or hologram on them to prevent copying and coupon fraud. It is very rare that one person will have multiples of the same free item coupon.
  5. Always email the seller and confirm with them that the coupon was mailed to them directly from the manufacturer. If they can’t verify this information, don’t buy those coupons, because chances are very good that they are fake.
  6. If you learn that the coupon you were emailed or have is a fraudulent coupon throw it away immediately. Do not try to use it unless you want to risk public embarrassment. By the time a coupon has been flagged as fraudulent by the CIC, retailers have been informed coupon is fraudulent and won’t get reimbursed for it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this morning I read this announcement on HotcouponWorld, about a FREE Charmin fraudulent coupon. Sadly, I checked on Ebay and sellers are trying to sell these coupons and the auctions are going for a lot of money. I would hate for you or someone you know be scammed out of your hard earned money this way.

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  • Swap Savers

    Great article! I recently wrote one called Can I Photocopy a Printable Coupon?

  • Molly

    Thanks so much for this reminder, and info to help us!

  • Jill

    You can report fraudulent coupons to ebay directly and they should take care of the listings you give them.

  • Great post ~ thanks so much for the detailed information!!

  • I am a supervisor at Kroger. Our cashiers get a lot of fraudulent coupons everyday for free or close to it coupons. Just last night a lady came thru with her cart full of the free Charmin with her coupons and boy was she nasty when we didn’t take them. They wouldn’t scan so the cashier called me over;I could tell it looked suspicious. She was very angry I wouldn’t just override them. We don’t find out they are fraudulent until we try to redeem them. I must say she had a very good printer. They didn’t look like internet coupons at all.

  • tamara hook

    Speaking of fradulent couponing, I noticed you said something about “buying” coupons on ebay. Don’t most (if not all) manufacture coupons in their limitations say, “Do not buy, sell, or trade”? Am I missing something here? Isn’t the very act that you are describing in your post of buying any coupon on ebay or anywhere else fradulant regardless of if the coupon is fake or not? I know that people say you aren’t actually buying the coupon you are paying for the person’s time who clipped out the coupon (as is the argument with coupon clipping services) but my question is do manufactures actually accept that argument and condone coupon buying on ebay or with coupon clipping services? I would love an email response to this question if possible. I would love to buy coupons on ebay or with clipping services but I currently feel it’s illegal. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Tamara,

      Actually Tamara, I used the wrong term. Buying coupon is illegal which is why when you look at any Ebay coupon auction or wording for a clipping service, what you are paying for is the time an effort this people put in into getting these coupons for you. So, you are not buying any coupons, you are paying for these people’s time.


  • Christy

    I love how you put this bluntly! I absolutely hate when people post fradulent coupons, although I must say when I began couponing, I really had no idea how to identify a fradulent coupon. Whenever I find a PDF coupon, I always call the restaurant or store to see if it is legit!

    Recently I found a PDF of a coupon for $20.00 Midieval Times tickets…that’s dirt cheap (considering it normally costs $54.00), so IMMEDIATELY, I called the number on the flyer to verify that it was legit! I really was and I purchased my own tickets, but it’s ALWAYS good to verity as you suggested!

    Thanks for your post! I wish more people were honest about coupons!


  • Tamara, according to the CIC – the organization Mercedes mentioned in her post – it is clear. Buying or selling coupons via Ebay or any other clipping service is illegal. I wouldn’t do it.

  • I think it wouldn’t hurt to mention that reporting these people on Ebay goes a long way! I spent a few minutes reporting the free bounty coupons a few nights ago and all but a few have disappeared. What bothers me the most isn’t that people are selling fake coupons, but that innocent and unknowing people are trying to use these and *they* look like the guilty party.

  • Shannon

    Hello. Up until now I have really loved getting bulk bundles of coupons from clippers on ebay thinking I was paying for their service. However, eBay’s policy is clear: only coupons that don’t have a no-sale or no-transfer clause are legal on ebay. I have gotten lots and lots of coupons on ebay that clearly have those clauses but I thought it was okay because I was paying for their service. It’s not okay and I am pretty bummed. Ebay makes it clear that regardless of what the clipper writes about their time, ebay considers the value of the coupons to be the item on the auction block. I just pulled 37 food coupons from my organizer that I just got from ebay. 5 were legal, 32 were not. Tamara is sadly right- most coupons on ebay are a no-no! Wow, what a wake-up call. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • I agree with you and am so glad to see this post! I get emails all the time from people wanting to share the latest great deal, only to find that some have no idea they’re holding a fraudulent q–either an actual counterfeit, or one that wasn’t meant to be forwarded in a pdf. A few months ago I decided to clarify the rules for ethical couponing to make it easier on newcomers. I call it the Couponer’s Golden Rule:

  • I have to admit something:

    I’m getting sick of all of the “Oh my goodness! I NEVER realized that coupon wasn’t real/ I never realized that was coupon fraud!” statements.

    Seriously, it boils down to this…If it seems to good to be true, IT IS! Use common sense, right Mercedes?

    And FTR, yes, buying time on EBay is perfectly legit. Do you really think Ebay would let THOUSANDS of people sell their clipping services on the site otherwise? The CIC would shut down sites like The Coupon Clippers, etc in a heartbeat. This is perfectly legal, and okay to do. Seriously. It is. Just use the coupons properly and we won’t have any problems.

    Again, please, don’t be so darned surprised sometimes…#1 coupon motto in my world is, If it seems too good to be true, IT IS!

  • Nicole

    If enough people would report these sellers on eBay, the listings would be removed. I reported the 3 listings I saw for the Charmin today and tonight the all three had been removed by eBay.

    Thanks for this post and the links. This is a very helpful post.

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  • Cathe

    And, of course, retailers stop accepting internet coupons because of these fraudulent coupons! Already, in our town, only Walmart and Walgreens will accept them. The others have stopped accepting them.

  • Good post. It is however not illegal to sell coupons. There is no actual laws on the books that can get you arrested for selling coupons. The wording on the coupons state “Void if transferred, sold, auctioned..etc” meaning that the coupon can be considered void if it is found out that the coupon was transferred, sold or auctioned.

    Void and Illegal are not the same thing.

    It is in essence the same as if I owned a store and I were to give you a gift certificate worth $20.00 and I say on the writing of the gift certificate that if you give this certificate to your friend it is void (void meaning I don’t have to honor the gift certificate). However, unless I have put your name on the gift certificate and I actually check the ID of the person using the gift certificate, I have no way of knowing that you “transferred” the gift certificate to your friend.

    In essence the issue is not transferring coupons that manufacture are really worried about. Most don’t care that you traded a diaper coupon with your friend in exchange for a dog food coupon. But what they do care about are the fakes and copies of coupons that people make and then sell and/or otherwise distribute to unsuspecting consumers. Manufactures really don’t care about legitimate coupons but fakes are not something that they authorized and they won’t reimburse the stores for them. So who that hurts is the stores, who in return pass along the cost of fraudulent coupons to the consumer by raising prices. Grocery stores do not have much of a mark up on the products they sell and if they are stuck with a bunch of coupons, for free items that they do not get paid for they usually have no choice but to pass that cost onto the consumers.

    If you find a coupon that is too good to be true, check it out. Out of the thousands of printable coupons that are out there less than 1% are for a free item and are legitimate. In all my years couponing I think I have seen maybe 1 or 2 legitimate free item printable coupon.

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  • selena

    I haven’t been doing coupons that long. I want to know what it means to transfer a coupon since most coupons say to “void if tranferred.” I have read that some people think it is trading them and others think it is tranferring them into an electronic form or a pdf file. Which is it? I don’t see how it could be wrong to trade a coupon with a friend or to give one you aren’t going to use to someone who will use it. I do, however, see how it is wrong to transfer it to a pdf file. Please clarify.

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  • teresa

    I had no idea ebay coupons were fake. Now I have a reputation at the 2 stores I shop at. I thought the coupons would be real because it would be too expensive for the seller to print them. Guess I was wrong. I am sick to my stomach – I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong. Now my 2 stores watch me very closely and even ask the cashier to put my coupons aside. I had no idea – I really believed it was legitimate.
    What do I do about the coupons I redeemed? There were over 200 coupons I used. Do I go to the store and say I don’t know if I gave you fake coupons or not? I am beside myself. Just sick to my stomach.

    • Hi Teresa,

      I think at this time it’s better to just move forward. I would keep shopping at your store and try to make it as normal as you can. When they realize all you bring them is legitimate coupons they will back off from scrutinizing everything.

      Unfortunately that’s the problem with Ebay, it’s so huge it’s hard for them to keep tabs on everything. My advice would always be if you are buying coupons to ALWAYS ask the seller if they are from the newspaper inserts. Thos would be the only coupons I would buy from Ebay, the ones that came out from newspaper inserts.


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  • Mary

    What’s a catalina and how to use it properly?

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