Coupon fraud’s costs eventually reach your wallet

It sounds ridiculous, even to me, to think that fraud is a concern when using coupons. I mean, you cut a few coupons on Sunday and maybe print a few during the week; how on earth could you commit fraud?

Then someone tells you about a great deal on grape juice. There are printable coupons for $2 off. That makes them less than $1 each. What a great deal! Your family loves Welch’s, right? You print the coupon twice. “Gosh, it would be great if I had more of these, I’d love to start that stockpiling thing Jenn is always talking about.” So you make a few copies on your printer. No harm, no foul. Right?

Wrong. Copying coupons — altering them in any way — is not just a faux pas. Heck, it’s not even simply unethical. It’s fraud. Companies allow a certain number of coupons to be printed per campaign. That’s why you have to install that nifty software before they let you print. That is how they track the number of prints that have been released. If people produce their own versions of the coupons, it may go beyond their planned budget.

So what? Those companies are so big that they can afford to lose a few dollars here and there, right?

Those printable coupons have a “watermark” on them. When you photocopy the coupon, it will not be there. Most checkers at the store likely won’t realize that your coupon is a forgery, but when that coupon is submitted by the store to the coupon clearing houses, it will be rejected. The big company doesn’t lose money; your local store does.

Again, you say, “No skin off of my nose.” The problem is, the more money a store loses through fraudulent coupons, the less likely they are to be friendly to coupon users. They may even impose strict guidelines that make it difficult for coupon users to get the best deals. The bottom line is: participating in coupon fraud WILL hurt you. It may not be the day you do it, but the fallout will trickle down and eventually cause problems for everyone, including you.

Respect the people who offer the deals, respect the people around you who also use coupons. Follow the very few, basic guidelines for using coupons: Don’t make your own; don’t alter the ones that have been provided by manufacturers. Follow the guidelines laid out by the companies that are providing you the discount, and we will all continue to save happily ever after.