Consumer Alert: Counterfeit Coupons

Don't get burned by counterfeit Internet coupons; find out how to spot a fake.

ByABC News via GMA logo
July 8, 2008, 7:24 PM

July 9, 2008— -- With food prices soaring, more and more people are looking for savings at the supermarket. But beware -- there's also been a surge in coupon counterfeiting.

One fake coupon can cost retailers and manufacturers hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars. And that can rob savvy shoppers of precious time and money, leaving them fuming and frustrated.

For busy mom Theresa Jenkins it takes 20 minutes at the computer and a couple clicks of her mouse to save hundreds of dollars on groceries every week. Her two-cart grocery run for the family would normally cost $400. But with coupons, it's just $100.

Fear of counterfeits sometimes causes stores to reject Internet coupons altogether. Each store sets its own policy about coupons, and the policy can vary even within chains.

"My overall purchases are 70 percent less than retail value," said Jenkins. "I only buy them when they are on sale and use a coupon. So a lot of the items that I purchase I'm spending just pennies for them."

But one day a store manager derailed her coupon mission.

"She said, you know, 'We can't take this coupon. We can't take any Internet coupons," Jenkins said.

The experience left a bad taste in Jenkins' mouth. "You just don't want to go back there and shop when you are treated that way, like you're stealing when you're not. You're just being a smart shopper."

Andrea Romberger, another mom and coupon clipper, had a similar experience when a store manager confiscated her Internet coupons.

"It was really disappointing because it's a great source of savings," said Romberger. "They make you feel like you're out to scam the system, when you're really just trying to save your family money and stay in a budget."

"Counterfeits tend to come in waves, and right now we seem to be at the beginning of a very large wave," said Bud Miller, executive director of the Coupon Information Corporation, a nonprofit organization composed of manufacturers fighting coupon fraud.

Miller says he's talked to many unknowing coupon lovers who are stopped at checkout counters because their coupons could be counterfeit.

"The great majority of people are very honest, and they're being taken advantage of by people who are selling counterfeits on auction sites and other locations," he said.