Avoiding Coupon Scams
Tips to avoid being a victim of a scam.
Things to watch out for.
As the number of people clipping coupons continues to grow, scammers are seizing upon the trend with a variety of different coupon scams. Luckily, these scams are rare, but if you are an avid coupon clipper, there are some things that you should know that can help you identify and avoid coupon scams.
With the ease of Internet communications and the wide availability of software to easily create photo and electronic reproductions of print materials, fake coupon scams sometimes pop-up online. Watch for offers that seem too good to be true – offers of free items that require you to pay for coupons are most likely a scam. Be sure to only download Internet coupons from well known, reputable coupon sites or directly from manufacturers.
Coupon Certificate Booklet “Business” Opportunities.
This scam involves enticing someone interested in a home business opportunity to “invest” hundreds to thousands of dollars in coupon certificate books that are sold to consumers for about $1 per page (the entire booklet usually costs $20 to $50). The promoter of the business claims that each page of the booklet, consisting of checklists of consumer items, can be redeemed for $10 worth of coupons for specific items. This means that each booklet is valued at $200 to $500. Excellent deal, no?
Well, no. In reality, consumers must pay for stamps and processing fees to redeem the coupon certificates. These fees take a significant bite out of any potential savings from the coupons themselves. Also, many of the checklists offer few useful items for coupon shoppers. Say a consumer must check off 25 separate items on a coupon redemption certificate. If only 5 items are useful to the consumer, the consumer will end up with a bunch of coupons that they’ll never redeem. In the end, the coupon certificate booklets aren’t worth much more than the paper they’re printed on, and “investors” (e.g., those who pay to sell the booklets) can’t sell enough to earn their money back.
Clipping Coupons from Home.
This scam actually piggybacks on the coupon certificate booklet scam. The promoters of the scam need to have lots of coupons on hand to fill orders from the coupon redemption certificates. To entice people to provide a wide variety of coupons, promoters will make inflated claims about earning hundreds or even thousands of dollars a week by finding and clipping coupons.
In reality, you may get paid far less than what was promised, and in some cases you won’t get paid at all. A common scheme is to claim that the coupons submitted don’t meet company standards. Payment is then refused, and the promoter offers to send the coupons back to you, if you send in a self-addressed, postage paid envelope. Most people don’t, since they have no need for the coupons. Also, by that time, people begin to pick up on the scam and realize they’re not going to get paid, so they don’t bother asking for the coupons back.
This provides the promoter with thousands of free coupons from all of the unwitting coupon clippers he’s recruited, all for free, to fill “orders” from the coupon redemption certificates. As long as the recruiter can find more people to clip coupons, the scam continues.
How to Spot a Coupon Scam.
If a program claims that you will get rich quick though a coupon business, or asks you to pay large sums of money for coupon offers that seem too good to be true, your scam alert bells should start going off. Other signs to watch for include high pressure tactics that entice you to act quickly, denial that any sort of risk exists, and a requirement for a large upfront payment. To be fair, there are some legitimate opportunities, such as selling real coupon booklets like the Entertainment Book and similar items. The bottom line: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.