“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
I’m mad. Hopping mad. Spitting mad. (which is actually kind of funny, since I just quoted Gandhi, but I can’t get that quote out of my head)
If you have been reading this site for more than a few weeks, you know that I have been on sort of an “Ethical Couponing Mission”. One of the side effects of the bad economy is that more and more people are using coupons for their grocery shopping. While that has been good for me (and my Stats page), it hasn’t been so good for the supermarkets.
“What are you talking about Mindi? You are always saying that stores love coupons because they bring customers to their stores and help clear their shelves, and that the stores don’t lose money beause they are getting reimbursed!”
See – I just read this post at Common Sense With Money and it really got my dander up. Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that my friend had emailed me coupons for free Velveeta and free Reynolds Wrap? It seems that I was naive enough to believe that this was an isolated incident. But it seems that with the renewed interest in couponing comes a renewed interest in couterfeiting.
The two newest coupons are for Free Charmin and Free Bounty Towels…and both are fake. And while a person may get a store to accept them, counterfeits like these are the reason that I can’t get a local store to accept my legitimate coupon for a free 2-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper (and I really love Diet Dr. Pepper!) and that many have had problems with the BOGO Aquajuice coupons….or that some stores have stopped taking IPs completely.
What’s worse is that these counterfeits dont look like IPs. They are full-color coupons and I bet look very real “in person”…they may even be on a glossy “feels like a real coupon” paper. If this continues, stores will soon begin to refuse to accept any coupons for free items. For those of you who take advantage of rebates, mail-in offers or just get free coupons from companies through home mailers or by calling a company, this can have a major effect on your ability to use your legitimate coupons.
Think that counterfeit coupons isn’t a business? There are over 450 ended (and marked as “sold”) auctions for these coupons on eBay, with most of the listings being by the same person. In the past, I have rolled my eyes when people say that counterfeiting coupons is often done by organized crime and similar “criminal enterprises”. I don’t know why I thought that they were done by little old ladies with PhotoShop and too much time on their hands, but I’m now a believer.
So what can you do?
1. Never buy coupons for free items through eBay, Craig’s List, etc. I’m not a fan of buying coupons anyway (I’ve never done it), but if you need to buy them, get them though a service like Coupon Clippers. (edited to add: I received an email from a friend who I know is an honest person who sells coupons on eBay. I would like to clarify that I am talking about avoiding buying coupons for FREE items on eBay…or at least do so at your own risk and after checking this list. I would also check the seller’s other auctions before buying and use some common sense. Someone who has 30 auctions for FREE high-value coupons should be looked upon with suspicion. Someone with 30 auctions for the kind of coupons that you get in you Sunday inserts or in the advertisements in your regular mail is likely to be an honest seller. But if the only place you eve hear of a coupon being available is on eBay, there is a good chance that it is counterfeit)
2. Spread the word among your couponing friends about this.
3. If you have purchased any of these coupons, throw them away. Please don’t attempt to use them. Yes – you were scammed and are out the money that you paid for them, but that still doesn’t justify trying to use them now that you know that they are fake.
4. Print out this release and this one and take them to your local store (grocery store, Target, CVS, etc). Point out to them that they probably don’t look like Internet Printables and may be easier to “slip by” a cashier.
5. Check this list often for news of new counterfeits or to make yourself aware of counterfeits that you may encounter online.
As for me, I’m adding “trolling eBay for auctions to report” to my list.
I realize that Moms Need To Know is just a small corner on the Internets. I have no illusions that I can single-handedly take down counterfeiters with my site.
But what I can do is work to help my local stores not be the victim of fraud. It is in my (and your) best interest to do so before these people ruin it for all of us!
(stepping off soapbox, taking a deep breath)