Coupon Fraud is on the rise. There are so many fraudulent coupons floating around right now, as well as talks of using coupons Fraudulently , so I thought I’d repost this post to clarifly both of these situations! I feel very strongly that if you are couponer or even just beginning to use coupons, it is our duty to be educated about this.

If you are going to coupon, which is the equivalent of Making Extra Money for your family, then you should take it that seriously and “Be armed” with knowledge…in other words, KNOW YOUR TRADE ! It’s like working a job and getting paid to do it, but not knowing the rules? That would be absurd!

So, here we go. If you are serious about couponing to save at least $50-100 per week, it’s a MUST.

First up is to know that You CANNOT Copy coupons! It enrages me every time I see someone on Facebook posting that they got 10 coupons because they copied them (and those comments are daily across the blogosphere!). THIS IS FRAUD. Each individual coupon is verifiable through for ONE TIME USE. The coupon format, barcode and scan numbers are coded with the information that tells the retailer, manufacturer and/or coupon verification software what I.P. address was used (your location) and is traceable directly back to you. So if you make copies, once they are used and then returned as invalid, it can be traced to you having made illegal copies. You can and will be prosecuted for Coupon Fraud. Penalties for those convicted of coupon fraud related crimes vary by each case and the number of laws violated.Here’s the breakdown on that:

As of this date:

  • Longest prison sentence: 17 years
  • Highest financial penalty: $5 million
  • Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon
  • Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000

    OK, that’s for the obvious, that you should definately know is a “NO, NO” in the coupon rulebook. I hope that we don’t have anyone here that is doing this. It is the reason behind all of the problems we have at the register and all of the suspicions behind internet printable coupons. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!!

    Next big mistake/rule breaker is using a coupon for an item other than what the coupon states. We’ve seen this done lately on the TLC Extreme Couponing series. Sure, you might get away with it, but say I use a $1 off Tide 50oz on a Tide 30oz. The retailer/store WILL NOT get reimbursed for that coupon, which results in higher store prices for us, as well as even more in depth scrutiny over using coupons at the register.

    Here are more examples of fraudulent misuse of coupons:

  • Using a coupon for other than what is written on the coupon.
  • Using the coupon for another product that is not listed on the coupon.
  • Purchasing a different size than what is listed on the coupon.
  • Purchasing a different quantity than what is listed on the coupon.
  • Purchasing less than specified minimum dollar amount when using a coupon for $X off a purchase of $Y or more.
  • Using a coupon after it has expired (unless approved-few stores do so)
    Finally, visiting the online authority on COUPON FRAUD will give you a more in depth look at what retail stores are facing with Coupon Fraud. It is a shame and it makes it worse on all of us that are using coupons legitimately to save our families money. View THIS LIST for all the current Fraudulent Coupons that are floating around, and make sure you don’t have any of these. There are rewards on some of them if you should find one, report it.

    I hope these tidbits at least make you stop and think about coupon fraud and the responsibility of using coupons legitimately. As you can see through my weekly (sometimes daily) posts here and on Facebook, using coupons the way they were intended can and does save serious money and result in many freebies…just make sure you know what you can/cannot do. Knowledge is power!

    Image Credit: Fabulessly Frugal

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    1. Jennifer says

      Sarah,I did the same thing!!! I saw the coupon show and saw that they printed 10 off and when I found a good deal I printed multiples of them too!! Then I read a blog that says “REMEMBER COPYING COUPONS IS ILLEGAL” I couldn’t even sleep!! I prayed and prayed b/c I really thought it was okay too. I thought well, if everyone printed and then some didn’t use theirs before it expired then there is no problem, I’m just using theirs!! WRONG!! I learned there is a barcode with the numbers and they won’t pay on it!! I feel so sick still after about 3 weeks after finding out. I went through my binder and threw them ALL away and have since bought another printer for our 2nd computer! I would have NEVER done this if I would have known. We need to help each other and if the FBI shows up on our doorstep all we can do is say we didn’t know, which is the truth and that’s it…… I just hate feeling so nervous and scared.

    2. *oops, sorry in my post meant to say I *did* print several

    3. @Debbie, I only print a pdf coupon if I got access to it via the company website or the company’s facebook fan pg, reason being if it’s being passed on by others by them scanning it & uploading it as a pdf I have no way of knowing if it was altered in some way & I dont care to go to jail all for wanting to save a buck or 2 LOL Not seeing too many using pdf coupons lately although 3M does use a pdf file with a pg filled with coupons & yes I didnt print several of them for the good scotch tape coupon.

    4. >>The coupon format, barcode and scan numbers are coded with the information that tells the retailer, manufacturer and/or coupon verification software what I.P. address was used (your location) and is traceable directly back to you.<<

      I get this in theory, however, what about multiple users of one ISP? There are three coupon users in our house, and I *know* about 15 of us at work print the same coupons. Is this illegal, even though it's different households and users?

    5. Sarah {Still Wanting 2 Make A Wrong Right) says

      Yes Wendy, I just feel horrible! I have already approached the assistant manager and they told me that as long as the coupon scanned and was not entered manually, and were used for the product stated that they were reimbursed by the manufacturer. I did not just use them at one location. I pretty much used them anywhere and everywhere 🙁 I learned my lesson, but what disappoints me the most is that I was informed on one of the online sites that THAT was how you do it to get ‘the best deals’. And now after doing so I am worried that the FBI will show up on my doorstep and take me away from my babies. Do you think this would ever happen? Thank you again for your advice. 🙂

    6. I have a question about printing off coupons. Most coupons print off as bricks coupons, but there are some that print off as a PDF coupon. On these coupons you could theoretically print off as many as you want. Is that ok? Two examples of this was the recent $3 off at Staples and one a few months ago for Muellers pasta. I just wasn’t sure if it was ok to print multiples of these types of coupons.

    7. Hey Sarah,
      Bless your heart…I know it must feel horrible to have done so and not known. Basically here’s what happened after you used those coupons:
      The store submitted them to be reimbursed
      The manufacturer refused to pay
      The store lost money-that equates over time to price increases as well as effecting that stores relationship with the manufacturer-that manufacturer might not accept their coupons anymore, etc.
      If you know where you used most of the coupons-I would honestly go to the store manager and explain that you used coupons there without knowing you that each coupon is one time use. Inquire to see if they were denied payment and offer reimbursement if/when they are and leave your contact info.
      That’s really the only ethical thing I can think to do after the fact-that way if the store remembers you and knows you used those coupons-that manager won’t flag you personally and not accept coupons from you and it will just let them know that you were unaware and made a mistake.
      I hope that helps!

    8. Sarah (Making a Wrong Right) says

      Help!!! I need some feedback and an answer on what if anything I should do? I was new to couponing and was told that you COULD copy and use internet printable coupons. Example: print one off and then make 10 copies of it. I DID this for about a month and then I found out that you could not do this. I stopped immediately and hope I have not done any damage! Has anyone else done this and then was educated on it being wrong and quit without any repercussion? I am a mother of 3 and I sure do not want to be put in jail for something that I had no idea that was wrong. I am worried to death and scared so I need some assurance from other VETERAN couponers….help put my mind to ease that everything will be ok. I just want to do the right thing! Thank for your help!

    9. >I know…it's such a shame we have to deal with this ! My advice is to make sure that you only print coupons from either the name brand's own website, facebook fanpage for a brand, a trusted blogger or the 3 main sources (, & and be very leary of coupons you receive in emails – like forwarded by someone – that's usually how counterfeit ones are spread. If you stick to that, you should be good! Thanks for your support of FFF ! We hope we never lead anyone astray by any of our posts! Wendy

    10. >this is so confusing how in the world do you know if you followed a link to a coupon whether they are good or not? I only get my links from blogger's like you.

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