Fake coupons shortchange shoppers

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Shopping with coupons is a way of life for some families. There may not be a lot of consumers taking advantage of coupons for groceries and household goods, but many of those who do use them often rely on them to make ends meet.

There are even some families that are so aggressive about coupon use that they regularly pay a fraction of the full price for their groceries. I'm talking about savings of 50% to 75% off the grocery bill. . . maybe even more!

But fake coupons are one of those things that threaten to "ruin it for everyone." Just like the naughty kid who got everyone's recess taken away in grade school, coupon scammers are making it harder for honest shoppers to use their coupons. Even legitimate coupons are being turned away because store clerks are so afraid of accepting a fake.The most recent big story was a Target printable coupon (find online, print and use it in the store) that was altered. The original coupon offered $5 off any $25 toy purchase. A scammer altered it to give consumers $5 off any purchase at Target. Once the fraud came to the attention of Target management, the coupon was made completely invalid.

I'm not a big user of coupons. I occasionally have one that saves me some money, and I do use a frequent shopper card at the grocery store for some immediate savings. I hope the people who think it's funny to defraud the coupon makers stop and think about those families who rely on coupons to feed their children. Coupons are an important part of their lives, and I'd hate to see opportunities taken away because of dishonest people.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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