What Are You In For? Coupon Fraud

It’s your first day in a new place.  Everyone is dressed to reflect their surroundings.  You walk into the cafeteria carrying your lunch.  Since you don’t know anyone you have to make that all important decision about where to sit.  You find some people who look friendly and take a seat, hoping to eat without drawing too much attention to yourself.

As you sit down your tablemates introduce themselves and explain how they got there.  When it’s your turn you mumble under your breath, “I’m in jail for coupon fraud.”

Yes this is VERY dramatic.  But if you are stealing, photocopying or creating coupons this could be your reality.

Prison sentences of three to five years are becoming more and more common.  Financial penalties are all over the place but many of them have been over $200,000.

So I want to take a second to remind you that you hurt all of us when you commit coupon fraud.  What is coupon fraud?

Here are the most common examples:

1.  Photocopying coupons.  Every time you print a coupon on your computer it has a unique identifying number on it.  When the store sends it in to be reimbursed they will be denied and lose the money.  That loss gets transferred back to the store- the manager and cashier get in trouble.  So then the next time you go through line with a printed coupon that cashier is going to be VERY nervous about taking a coupon. Is it fair to get that cashier written up at their job because you broke the law?

Coupons have a cash value.  Do you photocopy money?

2.  Stealing coupon inserts.  When you take something from the store that you do not pay for, that is stealing.  It does not matter if it is just PART of a newspaper it’s stealing.  In various parts of the country people are being charged with misdemeanor theft for stealing coupons.  There is no difference between stealing a candy bar and stealing the coupon inserts out of a paper.  STEALING IS STEALING.

Additionally please do not steal your neighbors papers off of their driveway.  That is just tacky.

3.  Creating your own coupons.  Most people are technologically advanced enough to create their own coupons but those who do usually go all out.  In response their prison time and financial penalties reflect that.  Fines in the millions of dollars have been issued.

If you get a coupon that seems too good to be true there is a place you can go to check it out!  The CIC has a nice long list of fraudulent coupons!

So please be a stand up couponer and do things honestly.  Don’t ruin it for the rest of us!


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  1. MisSan says

    Just wanting to understand, is it illegal to print from the computer like your blog says or to copy your printed coupon?

  2. Amanda says

    I absolutely HATE when people steal inserts out of papers. It has happened to me before that I get home with my paid for paper, only to find that the coupons are missing!! It is ridiculous that I now have to check my papers before checking out. Seriously people, newspapers are not that expensive.

  3. Heather R. says

    I didn’t even know that this occurred until I went on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart. We live in a small town and apparently word got around that I was a couponaholic lol and a woman stopped me outside of Wal-Mart and asked where I got all my coupons. I told her I print them off get them from the Washington Post and recycling bins. She said that she also prints them and if there is a really good one that I should copy it. I told her that is fraud and I’d rather play by the rules instead of break them. She said well I’ve never got in trouble for it, I just shook my head and walked away.
    It’s a shame that people do this. Before you know it they will ruin it for the rest of us :(

  4. Jerri says

    @Shannon – why would it be illegal to get coupons online? Like on eBay? they state you are paying for their time to cut them – not for the coupons themselves.

  5. Shannon says

    Great post! I met a very nice woman on a recent grocery trip who asked me about purchasing coupons from online and if that was how I got coupons. I was shocked that she did not know that is also illegal. I love a good deal but not if the price is jail.

  6. Faith says

    Did you see what’s going on at Walgreens? Their getting sued for sending in too many RR’s I guess people who work at Walgreens are the ones doing it.

  7. Mary Beth Dodd says

    AWESOME info! You totally rocked it with this topic. Sadly it is happening more and more, and people don’t pause to really think it through. THANK YOU for biting the bullet and telling like it is. More bloggers need to do the same and stop hiding in the comfort zone of skirting around this topic. Information leads to education. Good job on sharing the EDUCATION!

  8. Renee P says

    Ty for sharing I see elderly women stealing inserts at CVS all the time it irks me. Though I will say that I only get one paper my neighborhood is all to willing to help me with my endeavor. Most of my neighbors leave their inserts on the top of their recycle bin on trash day and I go down the streets picking them up before the trash an arrives I get about 30 inserts a week that way. Just an idea I wanted to share with everyone