Can I Photocopy Coupons?

Photocopying coupons that you have printed from the Internet?

Welcome to Readers Want to Know! These are your questions answered from the emails that I receive and responses to surveys that I periodically post. For more answers, make sure you check out my Coupon 101 posts which will also include other “Readers Want To Know” posts! Any other questions? Use this form to ask them!

Welcome to my newest series…Readers Want To Know (heh! Get it?). In this series, I will be posting real questions that I have received from real readers. So let’s get started!

Can I photocopy coupons that I have printed from the Internet?

The short answer? No! The semi-short answer? NoNoNoNo, A Thousand Times No!

The long answer? Here’s a few reasons why:

If you wouldn’t consider trying to photocopy a coupon from a weekly insert, why would you think it was ok to photocopy a printable coupon?  I have said many times that coupons are a form of payment, not a discount.  It really is the same as trying to photocopy the $20 bill in your wallet and trying to use that as payment.

Aside from that, printable coupons have several security features to help reduce fraud (which photocopying of coupons is)…the most noticeable being the unique serial number in the upper right-hand side of the coupon (click on the picture below to enlarge it and read about the different features).

That number is unique to each coupon. Print out 2 copies of a coupon from almost any site (most coupon sites will allow you 2 prints per computer) and you will see that the two coupons may have identical UPC barcodes, but different serial numbers. The companies will only reimburse ANY store for that one serial number one time.

Bottom line: Copy coupons and use them? The coupons WILL scan at the store, but once they hit the clearinghouse (where the coupons are processed and the stores get reimbursed) any duplicate serial codes will be rejected and the store won’t get paid for your photocopied coupons. So you save money, the store doesn’t get paid and once “corporate” finds out, the cashier and store manager possibly both get “written up”.  Does that seem fair?

I am choosing to assume that the 8 variations of this question that I received on a recent survey were honest questions from people who didn’t KNOW that you can’t photocopy coupons. If you have been photocopying coupons because you didn’t know that you couldn’t, I hope that this inspires you to please STOP RIGHT NOW.

…because photocopying printable coupons is Coupon Fraud.

Any other questions? Head to this form to ask them! Please know that at any given time, I have over 100 questions to respond to. I try to respond to the “most asked” first!

Comments

  1. Julie says

    Thanks for the explanation.
    Is there a way to tell if a coupon is a photocopy? Different people pass coupons my way, and while I don’t think any of them would knowingly give me a photocopy, they might send one along thinking it’s legit.

  2. Mary says

    I just sent in this question, but will do so again here. I have a relative who does not have a computer, or a printer, so I have scanned a few of my coupons to give to her. We live on opposites sides of our town, so she uses her coupons at a different grocery store than I do. Is this wrong also? If so, how can I get coupons for her, when some have a limit on printing, and she has no computer or printer? Many of the coupons recognize that I have printed up their coupon from my computer, meaning they have knowledge of my computer and printer. How can I print coupons up for her legally on my computer? Thanks for any help you send my way… I don’t want to end up being a jailbird at my age… ;-)

    • Ryan P says

      Mary,
      You cannot copy your coupons for your relative. It would be coupon fraud! If you use a coupon (and your relative uses a copy with exact same serial #), then they can track it to you. With proper notification of authorities, they can trace it back to you & your computer.

      Unfortunately, you don’t have many options. You’ll need a 2nd computer to print the coupons.

      – Ryan

      • Mary says

        I set up an additional email account on my computer for my relative so I can print out coupons for her. Most of the coupons will let me print them if I am in the email account I use for her now, but there are still some that say I’ve already printed the coupon up, and that’s because I had previously printed up coupons in my email address. So those are the ones that must have a spying cookie on my computer. In order to check that theory out, I went into my programs and found the company printer software and deleted it off of my computer. Then I went back into the new email address for my relative, went to the coupon site, and clicked the coupons I wanted to print up, and they did print up this time, but first I had to re-download the printer software. So my theory of printer downloads having spying cookies on my computer is correct. That’s how it knew I had printed up the coupons in another email address. I checked the numbers on the coupons I printed from my email address and the coupons I had printed in my relatives email address, and the numbers were different. So in a sense, there is a way to get around their only allowing so many coupons per computer. You have to delete the printer software for the coupon company off of your computer, then re-download it. Now is that illegal also? LOL The numbers on the coupons were different, so I don’t see how that could be considered illegal. It’s not my fault that their download software doesn’t recognize that I at one time had their software, then deleted it, and then re-downloaded it, correct? If the numbers on the coupons are different, then they would have to pay the stores for those coupons. So am I going to jail for this now?

        • Ryan P says

          Mary,
          You should be fine as long as the serial #’s are different.

          I thought you were photocopying (which is illegal.) Removing and re-installing is a ‘grey area’. You’d have to read the coupon site’s Terms and Conditions (an eyesore) for clarification.

          – Ryan P

      • Dee says

        Okay. Mary is my HERO!! I use get to the Sunday Paper every week for just the coupons alone until I got sick of the incessant amount of newspapers I had to recycle & sifting thru 98-99%% of useless coupons I’ll never use. Such a waste. Companies need to be thanking us for buying their products before they disappear & replaced by a NEW brand in our local grocery stores which happens (sadly) all the TIME for non-well known brands. Coupon fraud? Make it easier to print multiples, otherwise, loose a customer before they disappear & we find replacement. Thankfully the well known brands are on sale constantly ..

      • donna says

        out of curiosity say someone photocopied 100 copies and used them or gave them away. how much trouble would you be in and how would they trace it back to that person?

  3. Matt says

    First off I would like to say thank you for writing this post and making me realize early on that printing a copy of printable coupons is wrong!

    I recently copied a printable online coupon using the printer I printed a coupon from because I didn’t want to wait to load the page again to print it again. At the time I didn’t know that this was considered wrong and that each printable coupon has a unique serial number suposedly and can only be printed  normally only twice per computer. I didn’t think it was a big deal because in the past I printed the same coupon several times, and I never reached a maximum limit. I feel really bad because I used the coupon a few times at my local grocery store and just now recently read that this is not allowed. I will no longer do this again, but can’t help but feel really bad about how stupid I am. I would never think to ever photocopy a coupon I clipped out of the newspaper, and I don’t know why I thought the printed coupons would be any different.

    Once I read this and was made aware I trashed all my printed and subsquent copied coupons because I honestly can’t tell the difference between the two. From now on I will only PRINT printable coupons!!! I’m fairly new to couponing, and I think I just honestly got caught up in the moment and the rush of saving a little extra cash at the grocery store.

    Please someone/anyone provide me some advice on if I should do something about this? I only saved a few dollars, but I feel bad about it.

    Thanks in advance for the advice…

    • Mindi Cherry says

      Matt –

      I think if you went to the store where you redeemed the photocopied coupons, they would thank you for your honesty, but tell you not to worry about it (because the paperwork in going back on your membership card, figuring out which coupons were photocopied and then figuring out how much you should reimburse them is not worth the time spent doing all that).

      the important thing is that you KNOW that it is wrong and have pledged to not do that again in the future. I LOVE that!

      Mindi

  4. Matt says

    Mindi,

    I thank you wholeheartedly for your reassuring words and for your post opening up my eyes to see what I was doing was indeed wrong. While I wish I would have reserached this before doig this, I’m just glad I felt the need to look into this.

    You know what they say, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. I’m learning the art of legally couponing in the early stages, so I guess that’s what counts.

    Happy couponing! I look forward to following more of your posts in the future and Have a great rest of the night!

  5. says

    Please help I’m new to the coupon world and didn’t know printing coupons and coping them was illegal. I was given some copied coupons a few weeks ago from a friend and then I myself also copied a few and used them now I’m scared I’m going to go to jail for this. What can I do?

  6. Sasha says

    recently I waa at the grocery store and used 4 coupons for the same 4 products, with different barcodes of course I made sure they were different, But when I was checking out the cashier noticed that they were for the same poduct and only scanned one coupon 4 times.. am i still committing fraud wheni didnt even know till the of he transaction what the cashier did?

  7. Sara says

    Just a quick question, and sorry if this was already addressed elsewhere, but since photocopying printed coupons is illegal, how do you get multiple of the same coupon? Is it only possible to get 1-2 of an available online coupon or is there a way to print the same coupon multiple times and still do it legally?

  8. Avarliea@hotmail.com says

    So is it wrong to sign up to a website with multiple emails to print off multiple coupons?

Trackbacks