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Readers Write: Stockpiling and Internet Coupon Fraud

Q: One of my local grocery stores will not accept Internet coupons. Why wouldn't a store take them? Should I be wary of using them?

A: While most stores accept Internet coupons, it's true that some do not. Counterfeit coupons have always been a problem for stores. With the advent of the Internet, new problems have arisen, especially when counterfeiters make realistic-looking coupons and post them online. If many people print and redeem the fake coupons, stores lose money because they cannot redeem the fakes with the manufacturer. To avoid these issues, some stores have issued a blanket No Internet Coupons policy.

Do you need to be afraid of using Internet coupons? Not at all. There are hundreds of legitimate coupons available on the Internet every day. To know whether or not an Internet coupon is legitimate, look to see where the coupon originates. If it is posted on a manufacturer or store Web site, it's legitimate and perfectly fine to use. If it is posted on someone's personal site or a file-sharing site, you have no way to verify its origin, so you shouldn't use it. If you're looking on manufacturers' sites for coupons in the first place, you won't come across any coupons that are fraudulent.

It's important to note, too, that you cannot make a photocopy of a coupon that you printed from the Internet, a common misconception among new coupon users. Some people assume that because it printed from their printer they can copy it and make as many as they would like. But can you copy a dollar bill? No. And you can't copy a coupon, either. Internet coupons have unique serial numbers and bar codes. While you might get away with passing photocopies at your store, your store will ultimately pay the price when they go to redeem them, since they'll only get credit for one coupon with that serial number.

(c) CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her Web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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