You Asked I Answer: Counterfeit Coupons

Over the last few days I have received emails from some of you asking me about some coupons you received via email.  These coupons are saved in pdf format and are for free items.  Anybody see the big red flag there?  Well, you emailed and I answered back.  Some of the couposn you listed are already reported as counterfeit by the Coupon Information Center.  Others are not, BUT I am 99% sure they will be soon.  Here are some of the coupons you emailed about:

Free Doritos
Free Duracell Batteries
Free Freschetta Pizza
Free Pepsi
Free Dannon

I have written about Counterfeit coupons before and how to spot them and also tips on how to become more “printable coupon savvy.”  Here is the cliff notes version though:

  • Don’t trust coupons in pdf format that are NOT hosted on the manufacturers website
  • Don’t trust printable coupons you get via email that are too good to be true.  Chances are they are NOT true.

Also, don’t be tempted to use them because someone told you they scan.  Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s OK to do something!  The bottom line is this:

The store will NOT get reimbursed for these coupons.  This results in a loss to the store from accepting fake printable coupons which makes the store less willing to take printable coupons in the future.  In short:  This is a short term gain but long term loss for EVERYONE.  YOU included!

So if you have friends that emailed you coupons that you suspect are too good to be true, do yourself (and them) a favor and explain to your friend in a very gentle manner that by using fake coupons they are committing coupon fraud.  That in the end they are hurting their own chances of saving money in the future.  This is NOT worth a free bag of Doritos in my opinion.

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  • Diana

    Thank you for all posts that you have on your blog. This one is in my favorites and I look at it 5 times a day-keep up the great work……
    I wished these people -who send the bad coupons-would stop ruining it for us that actually make couponing a job :). There are so many stores that already dont accept internet coupons and it would be really bad for the company and consumer if all stores just stopped taking them all together. There has to be a way these companies can safe guard the coupons so that they cant be saved on a computer and altered. I know I will only use,smartsource, and company websites to print my coupons.

  • Kate

    Thank you so much for this timely reminder–just yesterday, my husband brought home a counterfeit coupon listed in this post, which someone at his work had given him.

  • Kristen

    I was just wondering if using a legitimate coupon for an item it is not intended for counts as counterfeit? One of my friends always brags about doing this. Recently she was able to use a coupon meant for diapers only on wipes. Or if the coupon states you need to buy two items, she’ll only buy one and still use the coupon. It makes me uncomfortable because I wonder if the store still gets the reimbursed. Is she doing anything wrong?

    • Sarah

      I’m curious about this too. I have a friend that does the same thing, but I don’t see it as right to do. I am very interested in finding out someone else’s response to this. Thanks for posting your question!

      • Meg

        Yes to both of you!

        If a person only purchases 1 item, but uses a coupon which states”$1 of the purchase of 2 _____…” – yes, that is a fraudulent use of that coupon. I don’t know how the reimbursement process works as far as whether the manufacturer gets reimbursed or denied.
        But yes, that is wrongly using that coupon.
        As for the Diaper/Wipes coupon, not having seen this particular one, I can’t say for certain. The wording on the coupon should be followed. If it says “good on Huggies XXXXX product, then in theory it could be used on any product in the “XXXXXX” line. But if “XXXXX” line doesn’t have wipes in that line, then clearly it can’t be used wipes. Hope you can follow that!

        IMO, knowingly using a coupon fraudulently (counterfeit, photocopying internet printables & insert coupons, etc) is NO different than knowingly handing a cashier a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for my purchases.

  • pennyscents

    Thank you so much for posting this! I really hope no one uses these coupons. When the CIC came out with there really big list of counterfeit coupons I looked at each one of them. I honestly would’ve went back to the store if I had seen that I accidentally used a counterfeit coupon. I will be bringing a copy of this to Wags and my grocery store today.

  • Jande

    Thank you so much for clarifying. I recently recieved the doritos email but it seemed suspicious so I haven’t used it.

  • Sheila

    The Doritos e-mail is spreading like wild fire in our area. I called Frito Lay myself so people will believe me when I tell them it is a fraud. Frito Lay knows about the coupon and said they sent some intended for 1 person and 1 bag and they turned it into this.

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  • Chrystal

    So now I wonder about the Scotch-Brite coupon for $1 off. When I clicked on another site it automatically pulled up a PDF coupon…Is this one legit?

    • Hi Chrystal,

      Yes, that one is legit because it is hosted in the manufacturer’s website. You can see it as 3M is the maker of these products.


  • Marcia S.

    Thanks for the great reminder! Sometimes we all need to be reminded about things being to good to be true! I sent this link to all my friends who use coupons!

  • Avary Pelphrey

    Recently, a store denied a coupon that I had printed off of the manufacturer’s website…the manager stated that even though the coupon was printed in black and white that a watermark should have been visible. Is this true?
    Is there any way to prove that the coupon has been printed from a legitimate website and not merely a copy?
    I completely understand the position of the store, and them being cautious in order to protect themselves.

    • laura

      There really isn’t a watermark on printed coupons… They try to have the colored bubbles print behind the black date… but it is not really a watermark… if it is a legit coupon try using it elsewhere… sorry!

      • Alicia

        Actually, most internet coupons that I print show (for lack of a better word) a water mark behind the save dollar amount. So, on the Zyrtec coupon I just printed, the water mark shows behind the save $6.00 on any adult zyrtec product. I have printed some coupons off in black and white and it seems that this water mark is still slightly visible.

    • Annette

      I’ve had stores question my coupons in black and white because it really does look like a photocopy even though it isn’t. I wish stores would be smart enough to realize that if you’re going to copy a coupon, don’t you think people would copy it in color??? But anyway, I stopped printing in B&W because they were questioned a couple times. It’s not worth the hassle of explaining. I’d rather just print in color and not worry about it. I set my printer to quick print, so it uses less ink.

      I’ve heard a lot of stores are starting to refuse coupons in B&W though, so I’m not sure how much you can do to change those policies.

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  • laura

    I just got the dorito coupon emailed to me today! Nice timing on your post!

    There are a lot of newbie couponers (welcome!!) that might now know better to check for fake coupons…

    I am taking a coupon (with voided barcodes) to my local Rite Aids…. hopefully they haven’t accepted any of these yet!

    THANKS for the post!

  • Charlotte

    What about using the $4 off two benedryl on the benedryl itch sticks at Target or Walmart? The coupon says no trial sizes, the itch sticks don’t say trial sizes, but when I tried it the register beeped. The cashier made it go on thru, said it was fine

    • The Benadryl coupon is legitimate. The sticks are not trial size. The only reason the coupon beeps is because the value of the two sticks is less than the value of the coupon. The coupon needs to be adjusted down.


  • Miss

    What is the world is the benefit to these people that are producing counterfeit coupons? What do they stand to gain from it??? Thanks, just not sure what goes through people’s heads sometimes 🙂

    • Sarah

      I wonder the same thing! What does anybody profit from producing counterfeits? Are they just that eager to be evil for the sake of being evil?

  • Jenny

    My store has a sign posted about printable Proctor and Gamble coupons. It’ s a letter from P&G stating that they do not issue printables and therefore all P and G printables are fake.

    They also have a sign up about the Doritos.

    • pennyscents

      The sign that you saw posted is correct. The information below is directly from the P&G, “Terms of Proper Coupon Redemption” form that I have.

      “P&G does not authorize any coupon promotions that can be printed on computer equipment. Coupons printed on computer equipment will not be honored.”

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    I must not be in the e-mail loop of things LOL Did NOT get these coupons and therefor no question. However that being said…I agree HATE the faud, makes it hard on everyone in the end. TY for posting the list !

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  • lyndsy

    I have unknowingly used a counterfeit coupon in the past. It was for a free pack of Pampers diapers (I know, too good to be true!). Someone emailed it to me and I didn’t even think twice about it. The way the manager Walmart knew it was counterfeit, was it didn’t have a manufacturer address listed. I don’t know if this is always true, but it makes sense!

  • Miriam

    I love your site! It is my home page! Thanks for this info. My grocery store (we only have one in my town) said they got some counterfit coupons lately so they have to call the manager over to inspect all printed coupons now! What a pain! Thanks for this listing.


  • Mary

    I have also thought that using a coupon that calls for a specific sized item and then purchasing a smaller size item with the coupon is also fraud. For example, with the coupons for candy around the holidays, the coupon calls for a 40 ounce bag of candy and people brag about using it on the 20 ounce bag of candy.

  • Kelly

    As someone who just got into couponing this is a great watch out!

    I was in Walgreens today and the girl who was helping me called over the manager to look at 2 printed coupons I had brought in (totally legit I promise!!) for a frappucino & a biore product.

    He must have spent a solid five minutes looking at the coupons and double checking things. He told me that everything was fine but that they get at least a handful of people a day who try to use expired, copied, fake coupons and that he hopes people will stop so everyone doesn’t lose out in the end. 🙁

  • Ambra

    Thanks so much for the post Mercedes! I am fairly new to couponing so this is definitely an eye-opener to me! I just had one question- what about those buying/selling coupons on ebay or “coupon clipping services?” Isn’t that considered fraud? The CIC clearly noted that the sale of coupons is prohibited and in “violation of the manufacturers redemption policies.” Most every coupon states, “void if altered, reproduced, scanned, transferred, sold or auctioned,” so I would assume buying/selling coupons is fraudulent as well. Just wanted your input. Thanks again for all you do!

    • pennyscents

      They are able to sell coupons on these sites legally, because they sell their time for clipping, organizing, sorting, mailing, etc…

      This is actually copied & pasted from someones ad on E-bay:
      Remember, you are not paying for the coupons, but for my time and effort to collect, cut, sort and package them.

      • Sarah

        I respectfully disagree with pennyscents. The coupons say “void if … transferred.” Regardless of whether or not you are paying for the coupons or the time to cut and sort them, the coupons are being transferred, so it is my feeling that it is fraudulent.

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  • Gina

    My husband came home y’day and asked about the free Doritos coupon. Someone at his office knew I used a lot of coupons and so she’d forwarded him a PDF of *six* free Dorito coupons. DH thought it was fishy and said he’d ask me before we used them. I told him I’d just read here about the coupons and just forwarded him a link to the CIC website. His coworker said “Oh, they’re legit. I’ve used them at XYZ store.” Lovely. That would be why places like our local KMart don’t take *any* internet printables. Bah!

  • Sandy Hollingsworth

    For the last couple of weeks I have been researching coupons for free items being sold on Ebay. It has reached epidemic proportion. There is one seller that has sold over 800.00 in coupons for free Huggies diapers in one month and is still selling. So far I have found over 25 sellers who sell nothing but coupons for free items. The funny part of this is that the buyers are leaving good feedback saying that the stores are willingly accepting these coupons. I am sure Ebay does not care because they are making money too. I wish something could be done about this….but I doubt it. It seems to me the thief always wins………..