Everyone loves a good deal, and scammers know it. Counterfeit coupons are a popular way for scammers to steal your identity and money. Motives and methods vary, but phony coupons often mean serious losses for retailers, consumers, or both.
How the scam works
You come across a website, either through a web search or an ad on social media, for coupons from major retailers. Usually, fake coupons are worth much more than real ones, offering steep discounts like 80% off. By using brands’ official logos, it’s nearly impossible to tell if it’s fake or not.
In some cases, getting the “coupons” requires subscribing to a coupon service and paying a monthly membership fee. Once you sign up, the service promises to either send you digital coupons or paper coupons in the mail. You may never receive any coupons, or you might receive coupons that are fake. Plus, by signing up, you’ve handed over your personal details and possibly your credit card information to a dishonest stranger.
You may also come across coupons that offer deals in exchange for sharing a link on social media. Don’t do it! The link leads to a third-party website where visitors enter personal information in exchange for the coupon. In most cases, after signing up, you never receive any coupons. Instead, you’ve given your personal details to scammers.
How to avoid coupon scams
- Don’t fall for deals that are too good to be true. Be skeptical. If a coupon is valued near or above the retail price of an item, consider it a red flag.
- Check the source of the coupon. If the coupon doesn’t come from a recognized coupon distributor, the manufacturer, or a specific store, be wary. If you aren’t sure about a coupon, visit the company’s website directly to look for the coupon on their official site or contact their customer service line to inquire.
- Think before you click on links in emails. If you receive a coupon via email, hover your mouse over the link without clicking on it to see where it will take you. If the URL looks like a random assortment of letters and numbers, or if it is a shortened link that doesn’t reveal where it’s taking you, don’t click it. Only visit official websites to avoid downloading malware onto your computer.
- Read coupons carefully. If a coupon doesn’t have an expiration date, if it looks photocopied, or if it contains spelling and grammar errors, you’re probably dealing with a fake.
- Don’t trade personal information for perks. A real business will not ask for your personal information, such as your credit card number or bank account information, in exchange for a coupon or to enter a giveaway. Promotional offers that ask for personal information are usually scams. You shouldn’t have to pay to receive a coupon either.
- Do a search for coupon scams. When in doubt, search the coupon offer along with the word “scam.” This will often bring up similar offers that are fake and can help you determine whether a coupon is real or not.
For more information
If you’ve spotted a coupon scam, report it. Share your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help others recognize scams before it’s too late.