We use coupons to save money, but ironically, coupons are now at the heart of a new scam.
Counterfeit coupons are being sold on the Internet.
"Customers went online and were the winning bidder on some Internet auction," said US Postal Inspector Roberta Bottoms.
Once the site had contact information, consumers would be emailed asking they'd like to buy a large amount of coupons.
"So the initial online auction was just basically for them to find people that they could sell a large quantity of coupons to at one time," said Bottoms.
Postal inspectors learned the coupons were fake.
"Initially, these counterfeits will scan and be accepted at your local retail company but it is costing the manufacturer money and in turn costing the consumer money," Bottoms said.
In fact, the Coupon Information Corporation said coupon fraud costs manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Manufacturers said they've been forced to pass along those losses by raising prices of their goods.
"The manufacturers have put retail establishments on notice that they will no longer reimburse them," Bottoms said.
Bottom line: No consumer should ever pay for a coupon.
Postal inspectors say it's OK to use coupons you find in newspapers, manufacturers' websites or on an authorized coupon distributor. But you should not download coupons from Internet forums.
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