Elder Protective Services’ Advice on Avoiding Coupon Cons and Savings Scams
Sunday morning coupon clipping is often viewed as a nostalgic memory from years past. But with shows like Extreme Couponing resurfacing on social media platforms, such as TikTok, coupon cutting is making a comeback. At the same time, the explosion of technology has encouraged many manufacturers and retailers to switch their saving services to online platforms and apps. Whether you opt for the traditional clip-and-save or prefer the new download and scan method, coupons are a consistent way for customers to save on groceries, hygiene products, and trendy items. As we have discussed in our other posts, wherever a cash flow seems to be, hackers and scammers are nearby ready to take advantage of unsuspecting elders.
In this article, we at Elder Protective Services discuss the concerns surrounding counterfeit coupons and savings scams. We review some of the most recent scams, their warning signs and red flags, and how to protect yourself and others against them.
Counterfeit Coupons: The Scam
What is a coupon?
According to the Coupon Information Corporation, the CIC, a coupon is a “certificate with a stated value if it is used when purchasing a specified product in accordance with the coupon’s terms and conditions.” A customer gives the coupon to the retailer selling the product at the time of purchase in order to save a specified amount of money or receive a specific deal.
Typically, coupons are issued by manufacturers to provide consumers with immediate discounts on the purchase of select items, which can be found in most retail stores. There are times, however, when the retailers themselves will provide customers with coupons for their specific store.
Coupons are generally distributed to consumers in newspaper inserts, flyers in the mail, or dropped off at the customer’s residence itself. Recently, there has been a big shift to virtual coupons. Consumers can download a manufacturer’s or retail store’s app in order to receive special savings online.
The CIC goes on to define coupon fraud as “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.” These activities are almost always in violation of Federal, state or local laws.
Both consumers and product manufacturers lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year in coupon fraud. In addition, counterfeit coupons increase the cost of products for all potential customers and make it “more difficult for honest consumers to legitimately use coupons.”
Common Examples of Coupon Fraud:
Social Media Saving Scams
In addition to physical coupon cons, there are also scammers who prey on unsuspecting money-savers virtually. Many retailers and manufacturers promote deals online and sales through social media, but hackers have taken advantage of this arena. Cybercriminals create phony vouchers for the purpose of gaining personal and financial information.
Con artists recreate advertisements for popular brands, such as Starbucks or Bath & Body Works, in order to lure in potential victims. Because these brands are popular, many social media users interact with and even share them, making the fraudulent ad seem legitimate. Once someone clicks on the link, however, they are sent to a site that asks for personal information, such as emails or home addresses, in order to receive the voucher. In addition to providing sensitive information, accessing such sites could download malware.
Advice from Elder Protective Services: NEVER click on links or share them with your friends unless you are sure the coupon is from a legitimate retailer or manufacturer.
The Red Flags
Although each savings scam is different, there are several warning signs that indicate the coupon is counterfeit or the voucher suspicious. Do not use coupons or interact with savings advertisements online if they have one of the following red flags.
No Expiration Date
No Product Size or Information
Skirt the Scam: How to Avoid Getting Counterfeit Coupons
To avoid coupon fraud and prevent counterfeit coupons from being sent to you, Elder Protective Services recommends seniors to:
You can protect yourself and loved ones from falling prey to counterfeit coupons and savings scams by putting the following plans in place.
The best way to protect yourself or your loved ones from savings scams targeting seniors is to simply be aware. Keep the red flags of common savings scams in mind and put protections in place to avoid counterfeit coupons. Remember:
Steps to Report Charity Scams or Disaster Fraud
If you were the victim of a counterfeit coupon or savings scheme, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is responsible for protecting consumers and their personal information. The FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but they provide individualized next steps.
If you downloaded a counterfeit coupon online, file a complaint with the IC3. The IC3 is the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a government agency that makes it easy for individuals to report a crime that takes place online. They work with the FBI and local authorities to help manage and solve internet scams, such as rental listing scams
If you purchased coupons online with a credit card, contact your credit card company. Report any unauthorized charges or if you think a scammer stole your credit card number. Each credit card company will provide additional next steps.
If you believe you gave your personal information to a scammer, go to IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect your identity.
Daniel Klibanoff, an advocate for seniors, is currently serving as the President and CEO of Multimedia Lists, Inc. Daniel is also the founder and director of Elder Protective Services, an enterprise aimed to serve and protect elders. Learn more at https://elderprotectiveservices.org/