Reader Question | I know someone committing coupon fraud, what should I do???

I received an email a few days back and I must say that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after I read it. One of my readers has a co-worker who is committing BIG TIME coupon fraud and doesn’t know what to do about this. Please take a minute to read through the letter – I have changed identifying info. I will follow with my advice and this reader would very much appreciate your advice as well so please comment below.

I had a question about a coupon issue I recently faced.
(A co-worker where) I work at gave me 4 internet coupons. I took them because of trust, knowing this person to be a couponer who use to teach coupon classes, swapping coupons with her in the past, etc.
I took the coupons with me to the store and used them no problems.
Later on I found out she has been taking internet coupons to a copy machine and making multiples of them and using them to get say 50x of that item if there was a deal on it.
I kinda didn’t know what to say. I have always assumed this as coupon fraud.
I asked her why she was doing this.
She told me because it worked as long as the coupon didn’t look like it was copied. She told me to prove her point print a coupon off the internet and she would as well and bring it into work and she would show me.
I did, same numbers on the bar code, etc. Only difference was mine was in color.
She told me she knew tons of others not just in Knoxville who were taking there coupons to copy machines and coping them, then taking them to say all the Knoxville Krogers and using 4 of them at that store, then 4 at another, etc.
I used the 4 coupons she had given me because I trusted her with couponing. I don’t want this to come back on me making me look like I was doing coupon fraud.
I have always tried to be fair and not cheat the system because it gives couponers bad names like that stupid Extreme Couponing show.
My (friend works at a large retail store) in Knoxville. He said there was a case a few months ago, an employee was doing the same thing, but using like 500 internet coupons at a time on the same product to get it for free. It was apparently a $2.00 coupon and the product was $1.00 so she was making like $400 and something dollars off each trip because the store allowed her the overage when the
coupon exceeds the price amount. Like I said she was fired with no legal actions taken due to taking coupons from vendors, not using 500 internet coupons of the same time on a product that I thought allowed you to only use 2 coupons of that product at a time especially an internet coupon.

I was kinda floored people do this in the Knoxville area.
Any suggestions on how to handle this because it bothered me?
I know I will never take another internet coupon from her again.
It just amazed me people do this.
I told I thought this was wrong.
She said there was no wrong doing if it scanned and it didn’t look photocopied.

There are so many things illegal about what this woman is doing that I find it hard to keep my thoughts straight. Most people know that photocopying a coupon is illegal – it says so in the fine print of every coupon. If you have ever considered doing it then I urge/beg you to please not do so.

Please read through Couponing 101 here if you are just getting started.

Internet coupons come with several security features –

  • Software specific to your computer has to be downloaded before you can print coupons. This allows companies to track coupons to you, limit how many times you can print a coupon and limits how many overall “prints” are available per coupon.
  • Serial Numbers unique to each coupon – these are different from the bar code. Bar codes are the numbers that are assigned to a product and will be the same on each coupon for a specific product – in other words the bar code sequence for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish will always be the same series of numbers. The Serial number is usually located at the upper right of an internet coupon. This number is different on EVERY SINGLE COUPON that is printed – it is like a Social Security number for a coupon. This number can also be printed around the edge of the coupon (sorry, Big Brother IS watching!).
  • Date and Time Stamp AND YOUR IP address – This is also included around the coupon. This makes it possible for a coupon to be tracked directly back to your computer.
  • QR Codes found on Smart Source coupons – encoded and encrypted technology that allows everyday smartphone users and retail employees, whether check-out clerks, store managers, or security personnel, to determine if a coupon is valid or fraudulent.

The reason for all of this is because coupons are like money. The stores accept the coupons and ship them off to clearinghouses to redeem them and get the money back for them. When coupons are photocopied the serial numbers are flagged and the store does not get reimbursed for the coupon. The person who is using the photocopied coupon is basically paying for items with counterfeit money and therefore stealing from the stores.

Any misuse of a coupon is illegal and unfortunately shows such as Extreme Couponing have made people so hungry for the deal that they are now committing crimes just to get the deal! Even the CIC has issued a warning to retailers about participation in the show because of the flagrant coupon fraud that has gone on – read that HERE.

As far as my advice for my reader, this woman is counterfeiting and committing fraud and I would absolutely 100% report her. I am so appalled that she actually use to teach couponing classes and still claims that does not see anything wrong with what she is doing. I would imagine if she is photocopying this quantity then she is probably using a photocopier in your work place which means she is also stealing from the company that you are both working for (paper, ink and time that should be spent doing her job). Unfortunately she needs to lose her job if she is doing this but that will probably not stop her.

You can contact the CIC HERE and let them know what is going on. They may want to contact local law enforcement and press theft or fraud charges against her.

I know that all may sound a little extreme but this is absolutely 100% a crime and she should be stopped. Check out the CICs website, maybe you can print off some information and hang it near the photocopier at work or leave it near her desk or work space. You could also contact the managers at the stores she frequents and let them know what she is doing.

Stores ARE changing their coupon policies daily because of situations just like this. They are losing millions each year because the coupons cannot be redeemed and the rest of us who are honestly and properly using coupons are being scrutinized and harassed more and more because we are all assumed to be guilty.

Thank you so much for contacting me and I do hope that this helps. Do not for on second feel bad about having possibly used a photocopied coupon – you did not know and clearly you are not going to follow her path. I know this is a hard situation to deal with but you have to keep in mind how wrong this is and that she tried to drag you into it as well – putting you at risk.

I would love to hear everyone’s advice. Please comment below.

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