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BBB Tip of the Week: Online coupons

Sun., May 6, 2012

“Clip” online coupons with caution: Many years ago, when I subscribed to the Washington Post, I used to throw away ads, coupons, perfume supplements. If it wasn’t news, it was trash. I don’t do that anymore. Well, not the coupons. Now you can get coupons online. According to, more than 55.7 million Americans use online coupons – a quarter of the population.

A few years ago, the BBB of Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois reported that one Southeast grocery chain had temporarily stopped accepting Internet coupons because it could not figure out which were legitimate. Other online coupon scams involve bait-and-switch offers in which you think, for example, you’re going to receive a free iPad, but you really end up filling out endless surveys and getting an annoying number of telemarketing calls.

When redeeming online coupons:

• Be extremely cautious if the coupon requires you to call the company or divulge personal information.

• Be wary of pop-up ad coupon offers that require you to click immediately to redeem. Clicking may automatically sign you up for services you don’t want, even billing you monthly.

• Check a coupon’s expiration date, limitations of use and whether it is good only for online purchases or can be redeemed at a store.

• Check to see whether the coupon is offered by the store or by a third-party. If it’s from a third party, a store may ask for additional information or require you to sign up for additional services. Again, use caution before divulging any personal information.

• Because some stores are concerned about online coupon fraud, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. Contact the store to find out whether it will honor the coupon.

• If you’re emailed a coupon from a friend or family member, don’t assume it is legitimate.

They could have been duped by a fake coupon.

• Find a reputable/authorized coupon distributor site that you like, verify their track record with the BBB, and use it repeatedly rather than running around hundreds of Internet sites trying to save a nickel.

More info or report scams: Visit the BBB at Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. Or sign up to receive our Scam Alerts at

Holly Doering, BBB editor

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