6 Types of Coupon Fraud

coupon fraud

Top 6 Cases of Coupon Fraud You Should Avoid

Coupon fraud has become increasingly prevalent as the typical newspaper ‘deals’ turned more into ‘online coupons’ – such as bar codes or QR scanning offers. Criminals make a habit of selling fake coupons or vouchers for different products on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Oodle, Instagram, OfferUp, Twitter, or any other social media platform. Coupon fraud comes in many ways, especially now since the online world is much bigger than before. Let’s take a look.

Watch the video below to see six examples of coupon fraud:

Scam Detectors Most Trusted Websites in Online Security
  1. Guard.io (100): Surf the web safely. Clean up your browser, remove malicious extensions and check for privacy violations.
  2. Incogni.com (100): Delete your personal data from the internet and protect against scams and identity theft.
  3. ExpressVPN (100) Stay secure and anonymous online - Best VPN Out There

The definition of coupon fraud states:

“Whenever someone intentionally uses a coupon for a product that he/she has not purchased or otherwise fails to satisfy the terms and conditions for redemption when a retailer submits coupons for products they have not sold or that were not properly redeemed by a consumer in connection with a retail purchase; or when coupons are altered/counterfeited.”

Essentially, if you use a coupon for something that it is not intended to use for – or use fake coupons on purpose – that is coupon fraud.

This is to be taken seriously as coupon fraud is almost always a violation of federal, state, or local laws. Those who participate in it face the possibility of criminal punishment.

Anyway, let’s jump right to what is precisely considered coupon fraud. Here are 6 types that you need to know about:



1. Copying Coupons

Multiple sites and emails are offering printable coupons. You just download it and print it out. But beware as they’re not to be printed as many times as you feel like.

The number of prints that it allowed is always stated on the website. You must always follow whatever rules they present there, as printing out more copies than allowed is considered counterfeiting, and it’s against the law.

2. Decoding Coupons

Usually, a coupon is used for items with specific qualities that you can learn about in terms and usage. These include size, color, etc. For example, you might be allowed to use a coupon on a 4oz product but not on a 2.5oz.

Using – or trying to use – a coupon for other products is illegal. You might do that unintentionally, it’s easy to overlook the size of toothpaste or shampoo, but if you do that on purpose, you also broke usage agreement even if the coupon works at checkout.

3. Buying And Selling Coupons

On all coupons, “non-transferability” is part of the user agreement, which means that once you hand your coupon over to somebody else, it ceases to be valid. It’s obviously pretty hard to control, especially if a coupon is shared within the family, but still, in theory, it’s not legal. But what’s especially illegal is collecting coupons and reselling them to a third party.

And although collecting or more like piling up coupons for yourself is not against the rules, it’s much easier to end up with counterfeit money and become a coupon fraudster unintentionally.

4. Coupon Theft

Coupons are very often found in brochures, flyers, magazines, and still in the old-school newspapers. Unfortunately, “couponing” grew in popularity so did newspaper theft. Many people don’t care about the brochure/magazine itself, but only about the coupons there are inside them. The convenient solution is stealing the printed publication or tearing out the coupon page from them. None of them is nice nor legal because stealing always shortens others financially. In this case, it’s the small individual distributor who suffers the costs.

Fun fact, or more like an interesting fact: digging out magazines/newspapers from the trash is also illegal in most communities. It’s called “dumpster diving.”

5. Expired Coupons

Each coupon has an expiration date that you can find on the voucher itself. If it’s December 31, it means that you can use it inclusively on that day, but not the next one. So always inspect your coupons because you can quickly find yourself in an unpleasant situation.

6. Fake Coupons

This might be a very obvious one, but you need to be careful, even if you’re not the scammer creating fake coupons in Photoshop. It’s just as illegal to use counterfeit coupons as manufacturing them. Authorities won’t care about your “I didn’t know” explanation. It’s the same as paying counterfeit bills.

So how would you end up with fake coupons, you might ask? There are websites offering coupons for “free” coupons where you only need to pay for postage. Coupons are free, so it would be pretty suspicious if somebody set a price for coupons. But it’s the same as people selling them on Facebook Marketplace or eBay, mainly that we’d already discussed that reselling vouchers is illegal. Hence, purchasing is also a big no-no. Coupon fraud 101.

How To Avoid The Coupon Fraud

People love buying coupons on the Internet and that’s why scammers proliferate in this kind of fraud. Most of the coupons all over the world cannot be sold by law. To get around this, scammers use the expression “clipping fee”. It is mentioned in the fine print, so beware.

If you are unsure about your coupons being legit, you can always look up websites where you can validate their validity. If you find yourself on a website offering awesome coupons, but it smells fishy, look it up using the website validator below:

Coupon Fraud: How To Report

Let your family and friends know about these six types of coupon fraud by sharing the article on social media. You can also officially report the scammers to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) using the link below:

Report To The FTC Here

How To Protect Yourself More

If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You’ll receive periodical emails and we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.

Verify a website below

Are you just about to make a purchase online? See if the website is legit with our validator:


loding img
Searching: Domain age, Alexa rank, HTTPS valid, Blacklisting, SSL certificates, Source code, Location, IP address, WOT Trustworthiness, Spam reports, Advanced technology, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, Contact options
identity theft protection


1. Top 5 Amazon Scams in 2024
2. Top 5 PayPal Scams in 2024
3. How To Spot a Scam Email in 2024
selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSelma is a fraud prevention specialist renowned for her expertise in private eye investigations and a remarkable partnership with law enforcement agencies. Beyond her investigative triumphs, her public speaking engagements and written works have empowered countless individuals to protect themselves and stay ahead of deceptive schemes. Selma's legacy shines as a tenacious agent of change, unyielding in her commitment to battling fraud and ensuring a safer world for all.

1 thought on “6 Types of Coupon Fraud”

  1. I’ve got one for you, by the employees in the store.
    MI has the stupid $.10 bottle return. So you take out a “loan” on your sodas and beers, only to be refunded when you go thru the trouble of returning them to the store, and half the time the machines are broken.
    Kroger – SO takes $50 worth of returnables, that’s 500 empty sticky plastic containers. Gives the print-out from returning them to cashier. Buys $200 worth of groceries, so that $50 is a credit on your bill.
    Except later when we check the receipt, there’s NO credit for the cans. The cashier has pocketed the slip! Calls to the store go unanswered. Others I know, same Kroger location, this exact same thing happened to them both before and after when it happened to us.
    Just outrageous. I was only able to finally get a credit after blasting them all over social media, along with the receipt of the employee who stole that credit. Next time we went in, there she was, still working at Kroger. They didn’t even apologize.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *