Welcome to Southern Savers, where finding deals and steals is simple and rewarding!

See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

Spotting Coupon Fraud

on 1.5.2010 at 12:32pm

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.


There are lots of coupons out on the internet that aren’t “good” coupons.  There are also lots of ways to misuse a coupon.

To see the complete Southern Savers database of good coupons go here.

Here are a few rules to help you stay on the right path in couponing:

-Always follow the words on the coupon.  If it says it is for a 6oz box, then buy the size indicated.  While it might work for another size or even product that is fraudulent use of the coupon.

-Don’t intentionally use expired coupons.  If your store has said that it is okay, you should still ask before using one on every trip.  Most stores DO NOT allow any.

-You should never make a copy, scan, or fax of a printable coupon in any way.  There are lots of security features built into these coupons.  While they may scan in the grocery store – the store will never get reimbursed for them.

coupons_security_features_largerTo put this into lay person terms:

  1. The unique 2-D barcode on the upper left is a different number for every coupon you print, even for a second print of the same coupon.
  2. The dotted line around the entire coupon is really text.  It has your user id, the date and time and coupon offer information printed – repeating at least 35 times around the coupon.  This is also printed at the bottom of the expiration date box.
  3. The long barcode at the bottom also has a portion of the unique 2-D barcode number in it.  These barcodes are much more specific and very soon will be the barcode that is scanned in all stores!
  4. To see the typical life cycle of a coupon and learn more coupon facts go here.

Coupons sent via email

There are many coupons that are passed around in emails that are for FREE products.  These all fall into the “too good to be true category”.  Most of these have been scanned from a coupon that someone received from a manufacturer directly.  Don’t get mad at the person that sent it to you, they have been passed around for years.  Manufacturers rarely if ever release printable coupons for free products.  If they do it is not often through a .pdf coupon.

To see a full list of coupons that are fraudulent go here.  You’ll also notice many of these have rewards offered for catching the original person that created the coupon!

What are the consquences of Coupon Fraud?

  • The cost of coupon “misredemption” to manufacturers annually is estimated to be over 300 million dollars.  It does get passed on to you in the end.
  • Coupon Fraud is prosecuted.  Meet the CIC, they prosecute coupon fraud and boast about having never lost a case since 1986.
    The penalties they have seen:
    Longest prison sentence: 17 years
    Highest financial penalty: $5 million
    Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon.
    Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.


    • Kati

      Thanks, Jenny! I hope that all of us couponers will have high moral and ethical standards. Why try to cheat the system when you can save so much using it correctly! Thanks for encouraging all to do the same. I greatly appreciate your hard work!

      • So true

      • twyla

        Ditto!! Ditto!! Ditto!! Thank you so much!!!!!!!

        • twyla

          I certainly dont want to cheat any stores out of their money… I agree we save enough doing it honestly…. :) thats terrible if people really do this cause down the road we may not be able to use printable coupons because of them :( hope that NEVER happens!

      • Tracey

        I totally agree. Now if I can only get the cashiers at Publix to stop trying to cheat me when I use my coupons. Everytime I go in there I have to count them as they scan them b/c they always skip over some of them. If I know I have 10 coupons, scan 10, don’t scan 8 and then when I tell you of your mistake you get an attitude. Just look over it and see. This has happened the last 5 times I have been to Publix with the same cashier. She and I have a love/hate relationship b/c of this, but I still go to her b/c I love correcting her. One day she will learn.

        • Aymie

          Your post made me LOL! I used to go in the same lady’s line to correct her as well until I found a cashier that is so impressed with houw much I save that she calls over her bagger friend to come see. I only go to the ones that are worth my coupons!

        • YANCIE


        • i count outloud when they ring up multiple coupons.. might be annoying but its saves me from going over to customer service to get it all straightened out…

        • Damien Barber

          I lost $1.50 on my last trip to Publix because I did not notice until I got home that the cashier failed to ring up my 2 $0.75 off 3 Hamburger Helper coupons. It made me sad when I looked over the receipt and saw those two coupons were not on the receipt… though I did get a free $1.59 BBQ sauce that I did not intend to get until I realized that the Velveeta Shells and Cheese were on sale and there was a coupon attached for free BBQ sauce, so I guess I still saved the same amount in coupons I had intended when walking in there… still would have been nice to have saved that $1.50 off the 6 HHs I bought.

          • Angela

            Just an idea…I have had this trouble before as well. My Publix is the most wonderful Publix around and I’m sure it was unintentional, but it is still discouraging to lose money when you’ve worked so hard to save. What I usually do when I have multiple coupons that might “stick” together is to separate them either in a fan pattern, or alternate them in my coupon stack. (For example if I have 6 creamer coupons and 6 cereal coupons, I’ll stack them creamer, cereal, creamer, cereal, etc.) I haven’t had this problem since I’ve started doing this.

        • Lisa

          I recently went to Publix, my usual store with some coupons, all legit and felt like she didn't scan all mine. However I really was not sure how many I gave to her. It was more than a few. How do you keep track? I am thinking of photocopying them next time. Seems a little time consuming though!

          • bnr05

            I note my coupons on my grocery list. This way my list shows how many items I want, the sale price, the coupons, and the final price for each item, and I know how many coupons I had and what they were for if there are any questions.

            I have a hard time paying attention when I'm shopping with my children, so this saved me one time when my total was higher than I had calculated. The cashier had neglected to enter two coupons for free items which was about $7 total. Since I knew exactly which ones weren't entered, they were able to find them in her stack and refund my money.

      • I Think you for telling us all about this coupon fraud, we all should be very thankful for being able to use coupons the right way for we save a great deal on items cutting the cost of what we have to pay a great deal. I don’t want to be using coupons fraudly I’m thankful being able to save as much as I am.

    • sandy

      I just started following you and was wondering if it is okay to print with Black Ink Printers only. I have two printers and would rather use the black one only but found last week when I used it on a battery coupon it did not work at Target. Any knowledge on Black Ink only?

      • Adriane

        It’s perfectly fine to use black ink. I’ve never used anything *but* black ink. Don’t waste your colors. Jenny have a post on contacting corporate offices if you have a problem. I would call them or print a copy of their coupon policy, and take it with you to the store next time.

      • Lindsey

        I also use only B&W printing. If you look at the e-incentive coupons (I think those are the ones….) for example, the new Target printables, they actually say on them “Retailer: Coupon can appear in color or Black and White.” If your having problems, take something like that into your store and show them next time they hassle you.

      • Aymie

        B&W is perfectly fine. What they are looking for is photocopied, and trust me there is a difference. I did a coupon trade with someone and they sent me a BUNCH of photocopied I.P’s. I threw them away but I wish some people wouldnt try to get away with it!

    • Thanks for the update. I thought it was okay to copy printable coupons. At least I was told that it was okay. Just yesterday I ran into a problem using them. I am so glad you had it on your website today. You are my favorite website EVER. Thanks so much for your hard work.

    • Amy Schwan

      I have applauded you in the past to my friends that I like your ethics and moral standards! Thank you for continuing to encourage people to “do the right thing”!

    • Jennifer

      How do you know if the online coupons are valid? I use the printable sites that you list here. Are these the only safe ones? Thanks so much for the information!

    • Joanne Horan

      That’s kinda ridiculos, since you can save so much money using the coupons correctly. I have a website that I subscribe to for lists of my stores and they tell you the when, why, how and where for coupons. I’m believe I will use your site from now on because I thinking more eyes and ears out there are better that computer data bases. I love it…. thanks so much!!!

    • Trish

      I went to the site with the fradulent coupons on it and towards the top of the list there is a dove coupon that is 2.00 on deodorent. I have printed this coupon but it was direct from the Dove site. Is this still ok?

      • Angela

        I saw that $2 Dove one also and wondered the same thing. I remember printing one in August/September that looked exactly like the fradulent one. But, like you, I printed it directly from Dove’s website.

      • It looks like the counterfeit ones are $3 and $5 off. I would think if you printed it directly from the Dove site, then it’s legitimate. And if it’s not a direct match for one listed, then I wouldn’t see a red flag. Maybe someone altered a legitimate coupon to increase the value of it. (Though I think the barcode automatically inputs the value, so a cashier would have to override the scan, which would draw attention to it . . . I don’t know.)

        • Now I see the $2 one. I didn’t click on it because it said Unilever instead of Dove.

      • Heidi

        I’m wondering the same thing about that $2 dove coupon printed from the Dove website.

        • Mandy Gabers

          I too am curious about this one….hmmmm…

      • Jenny

        Printing it directly from the site you are all good. Odds are this is one that some one made soooo many copies of that one coupon that they are the person they are seeking a reward for.

    • Lynn

      I added that site to my favorite for easy checking. Thanks so much for the good information!

    • bridget

      Jenny, when you print an offer from a bricks site or manu. site, it will usually let you go back and print a second coupon from that campaign. Am I correct in assuming that they have different barcodes and that the store will be reimbursed for both properly? Thanks.

      • Amy B.

        The main barcode is the same, but they each have a unique ID and this is a legitmate way to get 2 coupons.

      • Jenni

        I checked this once, and the upper right bar code always has a different number sequence. As long as they are different, the store does get reimbursed.

        • Candice

          Yes the second coupon printed has a different barcode. If you notice, it’s usually the last number that is different which specifies to the cashier that it was not photocopied. I was trying to save paper once and used a half size sheet to print a coupon and my printer said “error” and then automatically printed another of the same coupon an a full size sheet of paper. I was all excited b/c I thought I got an extra coupon! So, at the store, I handed the cashier 3 coupons and she would only take 2 of them b/c she showed me that 1 of the coupons had the same ending number as one of the other ones! I was so embarrassed b/c I’m completely against coupon fraud!!! I’m thankful for saving as much as I do doing it the correct way!

          • Penny

            speaking of barcodes, whenever i print coupons from smartsource, there is never a barcode on it….can’t use. is this the norm or is it just something w/my computer???

    • Tiffany

      When I started couponing, I didn’t know what I was doing at all! I went shopping several times before having read any tutorials. It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with making copies of coupons then. Once I researched more and became more educated on the art of couponing, I felt terrible for thinking that making copies was okay!

      It’d be nice to think that the 300 million dollars mentioned above was just due to ignorance…but unfortunately I’m sure that 299.99999999999% of that is intentional!

      The good thing is that most coupon blogs take the time (frequently) to discuss the proper use of coupons, so people aren’t ignorant on that topic for long!

      • Jamie

        I am in the same boat with you…. when I first started couponing, I thought it was ok to copy internet coupons…. Thanks to fellow couponers, Jenny’s site, and research, I am thankful I now know different! I know that some people out there fraud coupons for a living, but the honest folks like us who make an ignorant honest mistake are probably a small percentage of the whole multi-million dollar fraud this is.

    • Stacey

      The other big fraudulent thing happening now is there is someone from the Upstate SC advertising a Extreme Couponing class on Craigslist and it is $25 to attend. In that class the lady tells you to take all peelies, blinkies, booklets, etc that you can find in the stores to build your coupon supply or sell any you don’t need. She also tells them to get several P.O. box addresses for submitting multiple rebates. I had someone tell me that she and a friend went and after hearing the garbage the lady tried to teach, they demanded their money back. She said “no” but decided to refund them after they threatened to report her to the BBB and Attorney General.

      • Jenni

        They should have reported her anyway! People like her ruin it for everyone else!

      • morgan

        What? Seriously? I’d like to go to that class just to have the chance to ask questions. I guess that’s one reason why a lot of rebates state ‘no PO Boxes’ and why I can’t ever find a coupon booklet in any of the Greenville Publix stores!

      • RebeccaF

        I’m sure she will get turned in eventually since it’s not difficult to find out what she’s advocating is fraud. I feel sorry for all those people who have just been told how to commit fraud and could possibly be charged for it! Wow! That’s just scary!

    • JC


      Thanks so much for this. I bookmarked the CIC’s website for future reference. I sometimes get confused at the wording of coupons and when I can stack them and when I can’t. Is there a list of what the common coupon terms mean? For example, when a coupon states something like “not valid with any other offer” and I read on various blogs that I can stack that coupon with another, wouldn’t that be another offer?

    • Carrie

      Thanks Jenny! It does good to learn all the ins and outs to this since I am fairly new to the whole couponing since fall ’09. The only place I remember making mention of coupon fraud was our local Pet Supplies Plus store. Apparently same type situation on Natural Balance Pet Food with a national scale coupon fraud deal. I think the reward on that was $15,000 or more, this was told to me by the cashier last June. But I desperately need coupons from that manufacturer and since they lost out, we the customers lost out and I haven’t seen a printable coupon for their cat food since May 2009. A 10 lb bag of cat food is roughly $22. My cat has an allergy issue so its a must have.

    • Thanks for sharing this! It’s always good to hear of ways to coupon with integrity. I appreciate all ya’ll do on this site. THANKS YOU=)

    • Jenni

      AWESOME post, Jenny. THANK-YOU.

      The only coupons I’ve ever been e-mailed from friends (well-intentioned, honest ones) have always turned out to be fraudulent. (i.e. – Target store coupons for $5 off a 20 or 25 dollar purchase from about a year ago or so ago that created a national fraud alert to all stores.) I stick with manufacturer and reputable sites now.

    • Traci M.

      Thanks for reminding us to start out correctly in 2010. We save lots of money with all of your hard work, and also great site for the fraud coupons !!! Thanks again ……

    • qponing09

      I attended one of your workshops back in September. You specifically talked about copying the internet coupons and how it constitutes coupon fraud. You stated that each coupon has a border that ties that coupon to your computer. That code is unique to your computer and there’s a clearing house (I think that’s the terminology you used) that catches the duplicates of coupons. If a duplicate coupon hits that clearing house computer, it will restrict you from printing coupons on-line.

      My question……..I went to Publix a couple of months ago and I was using a Kellog’s cereal coupon. I had 3 of them. She could only get one of them to scan so she scanned that one 3 times. I told her that it would make make it seem as though I copied that coupon. She stated that there wasn’t anything she could do since she had already scanned the coupon. My question is, will this halt my coupon printing privileges in the future as this wasn’t intentional on my part at all? Thanks for any assistance you may be able to provide.

      • Jenny

        As long as you gave her three legitimate coupons you are good. Her scanning them in her computer is different from the clearing house computer. She is just getting it to register using the barcode that works and they will scan each coupon individually.

        Kind of like if bought 3 items but 2 were missing a sticker they would just scan the one with the price three times. Make Sense?

        • qponing09

          Yes, makes perfect sense. Thanks so much for that clarification. I was truly bummed when I thought my privileges would be revoked. The website you provided is an excellent tool. I teach classes for my co-workers and had passed it on to them some time ago. It helps because we see alot of coupons floating around on email that are very questionable all the time. Thanks for all you do and for trying to keep everyone honest. There are some out there that are doing the wrong thing and truly don’t know it. However, you have the bad apples that will try to get over any way they can. Unfortunately, those are the ones that give the rest of us a bad name. Thanks again for your website and all your hard work!

    • denielle


    • Rebekah

      That you for posting this. I have always wondered how this printable coupons worked.

      • Rebekah

        I also noticed lots of these say they are bought from Ebay…Why would you buy Qs on Ebay?…I don’t understand it. I am happy with just getting 1 of something in the Sunday newspaper ya know? lol

        • The idea is to stock up when the price is lowest by combining sales with coupons. Since the store sales run in a 6-8 week cycle, you would want to buy enough to last you that long. So if you family’s favorite spaghetti sauce is BOGO at Publix and you serve that once a week, you’d want enough coupons to buy 8 bottles. For some people it’s easier to bid on eBay than it is to buy a bunch of papers every week and keep track of all those coupons.

          Another reason you might want a lot of coupons is if there’s a drug store deal that makes a product your family uses frequently free or almost free. For example Ivory soap was recently on sale for $0.99 and there was a $1/1 coupon in a P&G insert, making them free. Paying a dollar or two for 10 of those coupons would be a lot cheaper than buying 10 packs of the soap.

          Personally, I haven’t tried coupon clipping services yet but I can see the appeal.

        • Jennifer

          I agree. I wouldn’t buy coupons online. I usually buy about 10 papers on Sunday according to what will be in them. Thanks to southernsavers for letting us know what to look for =)

    • Tracey

      If I use a internet coupon that ends up being fraudulent then I don’t blame myself because I only click on the links through this site to get my internet coupons.

    • I’ve only had a few instances where stores just wouldn’t take a coupon, and I didn’t give them crap over it because with the ones they will take, you get a good deal.

      However, the other day I had a $10 off a purchase at Victoria’s Secret coupon that comes in the mail for your birthday. When I tried to use it (on 4 75% off items), the cashier scanned my purchases, scanned the coupon (it worked), and actually had my cash in her hand… ready to hit the SALE button… THEN told me that coupon couldn’t be used on sale items and redid the transaction to add the $10 back.

      She said it couldn’t be used on ANYTHING that wasn’t full sticker price. The back of the coupon didn’t say anything about the item having to be full price or that clearance was excluded (it said that outlet stores, Canadian stores, and multiple sets of bras were excluded, though). Of course pretty much everything in the store is on sale because it’s Victoria’s Secret and the markup is so high that they can run the items for 50% off and still make a profit and people buy the items because that’s a sale.

      I’ve had other employees at Victoria’s Secret take those coupons on sale items with no problem. Anyone here ever had any experience with VS? I’m considering just using it at another VS or going on a weekday when there may be different staff in there.

      I understand them refusing a coupon if it violates the terms, but if they want to do that, they need to do it before they have the customer’s cash in hand.

      • claire

        she told you a big fat lie. I used to work for VS and those birthday coupons can be used for ANYTHING in the store, as long as it is actual merchandise. I would ask to speak with a manager, b/c some of those girls don’t know what they are doing. i used a $10 coupon at PINK a few weeks ago on a $10 item and the cashier freaked out b/c i was getting my purchase for free, and had to get a manager to make sure it was ok. (VS doesn’t hire the quality of people it used to. you wouldn’t believe their turnover rates…prob the highest in the industry.)

    • Jennifer

      Im glad that you have brought this subject up, because last night, I tried to do the dental floss/toothbrush deal at Walgreens, and was told that doing it the way you stated in your website is unethical. The cashier stated that you have to do the walgreens coupon first, then the bogo coupon, making the total on the two dental flosses 1.79, instead of free, as you stated that it was. He said that when the cashiers don’t know better, you can get it free, but that it is not right to do. Then I received a sermon on coupon fraud and people who try to make money off coupons. I want to get as much free as possible, but i do not want to have integrity issues either, please advise.

      • Sean

        I wondered this myself. The store, I’d imagine, would be reimbursed either way as the receipt shows the full price on top and the store coupon as a discount on the bottom. However, I do wonder if the manufacturer would have an argument in denying reimbursement with a record of a sale with both coupons used.

      • Joanne Horan

        I’m not sure I understand your question. The toothbrushes are free(excludes tax) regardless of whether you put the mc coupons first or last and the same goes for the walgreens coupons. The manager was just trying to give you the run around. First off, walgreens gives you their coupon off and allows you to use a mc coupon with it. You need to remember to always show them the walgreens coupon because if you don’t, they will not discount it – the toothbrush was W2.00/1 and since you had two that makes it 4.00 off. Now,take the bogo coupon and that makes the items free. Also, you can use 1.00/1 coupon on this purchase,(remember the bogo coupon is buy one/get one free, so essentially you are using the 1.00 on the buy one) however, this gives you an overage, so you might want to pick up something extra to cover that dollar. Hope this was helpful.

    • Tara J.

      Thanks Jenny. I have been couponing for about eight months and when I first started I copied some printable coupons. The more I learned about couponing from reading your site, the more I learned what to do and not to do. Please continue to post these kinds of FYI’s in the future.

    • Marge

      Since the dotted line around the outside of the coupon is actually text, does it matter if I cut it off? I like to cut out my coupons as small as possible to fit in the pockets of my binder pages. I usually cut inside that line. I haven’t had any problems using them like that, but I’m wondering if it could be a problem in the future.

      • Allison

        I am now wondering the same thing. I never realized it was text! Also, I frequently print my coupons in grayscale to save ink. They always scan at stores but it prevents some of the fraud protection from showing up. So, do I need to stop doing that?

        • Joanne Horan

          Some stores will not take anything but colored coupon and some will. Again, it all depends on the store policy. Actually, if anyone is in doubt, I would recommend going to Walgreens and doing an ink refill. colored ink and black ink only cost 12.99 ea refill and sometimes they will run sales for it for 10.00, so there’s no reason not to colored coupons.

      • Damien Barber

        I was just wondering the same thing and was about to ask also. However, as I see it, it’s the coupon site’s own fault if cutting this is wrong because they put scissors telling you to cut on the line with the text.

    • Trudy

      Speaking of fraud, my Kroger will only give $1 on any internet coupons that are over $1 but I’m guessing they send them in and are reimbursed for the full amount from the manufactorer. Is this just their way of making up for the loss from consumer fraud? If so, it’s a shame that the honest couponers are paying for the others savings.

      • Joanne Horan

        It all depends on the store. I think they do a survey and decide what their policies will be. For eg. if they feel that a lot of coupon fraud is being commited at their store then that might be what’s happening!!

    • Audrey Thomas

      My sister-law emailed me some great cps for free stuff and now im afraid to use them b/c i spoted two of them on the fraud list. I think im just going too delete them. Thanks for the heads up

    • Christy

      I totally understand why copying coupons is against the rules and constitute coupon fraud. I have done it in the past but defintely will not do it again. Thanks for the information. Makes me feel horrible about it. I’m also freaked out about it. If my copied coupons were caught by the clearing house, I could be restricted from printing internet coupons?? How soon after the coupons are used do they usually catch these? Am I going to be sweating it forever wondering if those coupons will finally be caught?

      • Christy & Li,

        Please don’t interpret this to be me condoning fraudulent coupon use… but it would probably take more than a couple of duplicated coupons to have your printing privileges revoked.

        When I first found out about printables, I didn’t know about print limits or that they had unique bar codes. I honestly thought that printing a coupon once and making a few copies for my personal use was the same as printing them multiple times from multiple computers, just easier. I used copied coupons for a week or two before I saw an eye opening post similar to this one on a blog, (which is why it’s so great Jenny and several other ladies write posts like this periodically). I redeemed the copied coupons about two years ago and the CIC hasn’t come knocking on my door and I can still print coupons just fine.

        • Anda

          I am sure that there are MANY others out there who have been guilty of copying q’s before they realized it was not ok. Those who openly admit it should be commended. I think that you are great for reassuring those who have done it. I think that once you realize it is not ok and stop are doing the right thing.

        • michelle

          Thank you!!! Cleaned out the binder, just started couponing this past week and thought copying was ok….thank you again!! I just never knew I guess :(

    • Kristin Wilson

      I have a question about Target printable coupons…my Publix accepts them as a competitor coupon..but they don’t have a unique code like other internet printables. Is there a problem with these coupons..or is it just manufacturer coupons?

      • Elyn

        When Publix (or any store) accepts a competitor’s coupon, Publix is giving you the discount. That coupon will never be paid back to them. They do it as a courtesy in the hope that you will keep your business with them. It is almost a form of price-matching.

    • Li

      Thanks Jenny
      This is defintely NEEDED information. I am a new couponer also. Just my 2nd week. I copied some coupons and used them at publix and walgreens and gave some to my sister. i just didn’t want to waste the ink too. i was thinking this because some of the coupons print a whole page of advertisiing with the one coupon.
      They took mine even though i asked the checkout lady if they were all good. I said wow why doesn’t everybody do this ? it just seemed to good to be true. that should have been my first red flag ??
      When my sister went into walgreens after i had been there and already used the coupons, the mgr said no copies and explained to her that each coupon has a bar code individually. She came home and told me and i started printing ONLY.

      But will this affect my future printing of coupons ?
      Should i contact the store ?
      I hope not since i just started couponing….
      so sorry…..:(
      THANKYOU for all your hard work.
      You have saved us so much..

      • Amber

        I am in the same boat, being new to couponing and trying to save ink and paper. I WILL NOT do that again! But, I was also wondering if I have done something else that is a no no. For a few products, I have printed the 2 from my computer, 2 from my mother-in-laws’s computer, and 2 at work. Is that considered fraud? This site is saving me waaaay too much money to screw this up!

        • Stacey

          You are fine as long as you are printing from separate computers!

        • Laura N

          Haha, I do that too! my office, my home and my mother. But they are valid by doing them that way.

        • Joanne Horan

          Buy your paper from walmart. a package cost less than 3.00 and get ink refills from Walgreens 12.99 colored and black – when on sale its 9.99

          • deedee

            We buy our ink from Ebay. Always find it cheaper than anywhere in our area!

    • ShannonS.

      Last Christmas the registrar at my school put the Free Hanes coupons in everyone’s box. It had two “get a free package of Hanes” coupons. I never got around to using it (something felt wrong about it), but several of the teachers did. Now I see that it was fraudulent. Wow, not only was the coupon bad, but she made copies. WOW! Glad I didn’t use it.

    • Judy

      What a fantastic article! Very informative!! Thank you so much!!!

    • Laura N

      Thanks for this, it is good to know about the printable coupons since I print them like crazy. My question is about the border around the coupon, I always clip that edging off so the coupon will fit into my baseball card holder thing in my coupon book. Should I not be doing that? I really don’t want to see my favorite grocery stores stop accepting them because of issues like that.

      • ShannonS.

        Thanks Laura, I was thinking the same thing. I always cut that so they fit in my binder.

      • Angela

        Jenni addressed this in her couponing class this past summer and said that it does not matter because the code is also all around the expiration date box. And that goes inside the main body of the coupon where we would not cut. I have to cut mine “skinny” so that they will fit in my binder as well.

    • Jenni

      Okay, I am going to ask a question I have been wondering about for a while… Food Lion Store coupons: How is the PDF that is available on this site okay? Since FL states only one print is allowed per customer, I always feel a little slimy using the PDF coups at FL after I’ve already had my print off of FL at their site. (I do print them off to use at Publix as a comp coup)

      I would really appreciate knowing how these are okay, because I would love to use them more (no more than once a day, of course, but perhaps more than once a week would be great), but I don’t want a troubled conscience in return.

      • Rebecca

        Personally, I feel that everyone should go easy on use of the FLIPs so that the program will continue; HOWEVER, as long as it’s on the IheartPublix website as a PDF, we all have FREE REIGN over it. I don’t expect it to go on forever. They’ll realize how much money they’re losing as more and more people use this website (and people that just have no boundaries on free-loading) and get it discontinued at some point. Nothing really good ever lasts! LOL

        • Kris

          FLIP coupons are on Southern Savers as a PDF as well, not just iheartpublix. Not sure I would put the blame on iheartpublix. Im sure you know that you are suppose to only use 1 per item per transaction, so it doesnt matter if I print 100 from a pdf, I can still only use 1 per transaction, and I believe most Publix enforce this now, at least I dont even attempt to use more than 1 because it was not intended to be used that way, and Jenny has made that clear.

        • seacoastmom

          I’m with you on the FLP’s. I love that there are coupons that I can use for my fav’ publix items and if I really use an item I’ll try to throw in an extra quicke publix run for them each week that they are good (like the sourdough publix english miffins for my sweetie- love those $1 off Flips!!) I’d hate for those q’s to go away!

      • Jamie

        I am also wondering about PDF coupons…. Is there a limit on how many we can print? I just printed some for a Scotch Tape product that was a down-loadable coupon from a PDF file (from the Scotch website!)… I was assuming that they did not care how many we printed off…. Someone care to share their thoughts???? I certainly do not want to get fined or get jail time for using a coupon!

        • Sarah

          I just try to use good sense whenever I come across those. People that print a ton, then clear the shelves really irritate me, so I try not to be that person. :) I usually will just print two and leave it at that, but if they’ve put it in a PDF file, there’s no way to track copies or have individual bar codes so you can print as many as you want.

    • ShannonS.

      I have a question about coupons that say “do not double”. If you go to Kroger and do self checkout, then scan your coupons, will the computer automatically double them? Is there some info embedded in the barcode that keeps the computer from automatically doubling them?

      • Ileana

        I was wondering the same thing. So many coupons say DO NOT DOUBLE and of all the ones I have used, only once has a cashier stopped one from doubling. I of course didn’t object as it clearly states on the coupon that it is not to be doubled. So, does it become our fault or the stores or the manufacturer for not using the barcodes that start with 9 that don’t automatically double or triple?

        • Abigail

          When stores double coupons they only get reimbursed for the face value of the coupon. This is their way to get you to keep coming to their store vs others that don’t double coupons.

      • Diana

        I think double coupons are the store “eating” the double portion. They can’t get reimbursed for it from the coupon people so I guess they figure it’s not worth it to stop a few from doubling.

      • Joanne Horan

        kroger policy is to double and triple coupons, so they pick up the tab. this is so you will shop more at their store rather than go to another store. I don’t care what anyone say, but Kroger comes out #1 for food prices.

        • ShannonS

          So if its the store eating the “double” then how can a manu put “do not double” on their coupon?

          • Damien Barber

            Basically, the manufacturer is telling the store that they are not going to get reimbursed for doubling the coupon.

    • Amanda

      Jenny, i just want to make sure i understand this correctly. I know someone posted why should you buy coupons on ebay. I have bought some danactive yogurt drink coupons off ebay because my kids drink about 24 of these drinks a week! I knew there was a coupon out there for them because i had received them in my Sunday papers. It made since in my head to buy these coupons since it is a product that i use everyday and i knew there was a coupon out there. If it is a Sunday paper coupon and they are legit coupons, is this still wrong? Thanks for all you do, i definitely want to do the right thing….

      • Lindsey

        People who sell on eBay (or on coupon clipping sites, etc.) are actually selling their time in going out in finding, obtaining, clipping and mailing the coupons to you, not so much as in selling the actual coupon. That is how they do it and it is still allowed by sites like eBay. I wouldn’t feel bad. Just think of it like you are buying someone’s time or service. Trust me…eBay would put an end to it real fast if it was not legal. I would be somewhat more leary in buying printables online…especially multiple printables, but I wouldn’t worry about coupons from the Sunday paper.

        • Amanda

          Ok, thanks Lindsey so much for your post. I would think ebay would not allow this, but i am fairly new to coupons so do not want to assume anything. I have ONLY bought sunday paper ones. IF someone thinks this is wrong though i want to know, i really do want to do what is right.

        • qponing09

          Question about purchasing coupons from Ebay or anyone else. I’m not knocking it all as I’ve thought about purchasing some on several different occasions. However, the CIC website states the following about buying/selling coupons:

          Can I sell my extra coupons?
          No, there is no legitimate way to sell your unwanted coupons.

          The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies. These policies are generally printed on the coupons or is available from the manufacturer upon request. The sale or transfer voids the coupon.

          Persons purchasing coupons have often been associated with organized criminal activities. They often purchase the coupons as one aspect of a scheme to defraud the coupon issuers/manufacturers, usually by seeking to redeem coupons without purchasing any products. Individuals selling coupons to such crime rings have been charged with and convicted of criminal violations.

          Can I buy coupons?
          No, there are good reasons not to purchase coupons. In addition to being in violation of the manufacturers’ policies, it simply does not make sense to pay for something that is given away for free.

          Coupons being sold on the Internet or by other means may be stolen property or counterfeit. Individuals attempting to use these coupons may be subject to prosecution.

          Does this make what the folks are doing on Ebay wrong? I would really like to know for future reference as I’m sure I will want to purchase coupons eventually and want to ensure I’m doing the right thing and not supporting fraud. Thanks for any assistance.

          • RebeccaF

            Reading this, it does seem like buying coupons from online sources like Ebay and other “reputable” coupon sources is illegal. I have bought wine tags from Ebay as well as several tear pad coupons and a few rebates. I never thought of it as fraud but now I’m beginning to wonder. I certainly don’t want to break the law causing major heartache and possibly large financial problems just because I wanted to cut my budget down to a better size. I really need clarification on this especially because I see references to online sites that sell clipped coupons and full inserts from people and sites that I consider reputable. I apologize if I’m wrong, but I thought even SouthernSavers had some reference but I could totally be off on that. I’m just upset right now because I thought I was doing good.

            One other question, is printing extras from the library fraud? I actually just printed out some extra $5/$25 Rite Aid coupons from RedPlum because I wanted to use them. It’s really hard to walk to straight and narrow when there are so many options out there that present themselves to be totall legit. Please help. TIA!

          • WHOA! I have a sincere problem with this statement from the website…”Persons purchasing coupons have often been associated with organized criminal activities. They often purchase the coupons as one aspect of a scheme to defraud the coupon issuers/manufacturers, usually by seeking to redeem coupons without purchasing any products. Individuals selling coupons to such crime rings have been charged with and convicted of criminal violations.”

            So now, because I “buy” coupons that makes me a criminal associated with organized criminal activities??? GEEZ! Blanket statement much?? I can assure the CIC that every person I know who “buys” coupons on EBay does most certainly NOT intend to defraud anyone of anything. They just want a lot of Dannon Yogurt. (or whatever).

            good grief.

            • Amanda

              So i don’t know if this has opened a can of worms or not, but i really would love your feedback – (when you get a chance ofcourse- ha!) I know on ebay it always says”you are not buying these coupons, but my time to clip them……”) and maybe that is their way of getting around it. But, if theseare legit coupons from the Sunday paper, they have already been printed by the manufacture to be used by someone and so now they are being so, someone else just collected them for me instead of me bugging all my friends:) I really do want to do what is right, so if this is considered illigal i will be sad that i have partaken in this. I guess i assummed too much…..

          • AngelaDH

            Aren’t we buying coupons by purchasing the Sunday paper? :p

            • seacoastmom

              Well, all of US might be, but I think most of the rest of America buys it for the articles & information…and probably the Parade magazine………..HA!

      • Katherine

        I only buy entire inserts from ebay so I get the legitimate original inserts. Of course I only buy inserts if I am out of town and missed that sunday’s inserts.

      • Damien Barber

        I’ve always considered it wrong to buy or sell coupons because the coupons say on them that they are not to be bought or sold and have wondered by good couponing sites have seemed to always condone the buying and selling of coupons… maybe it’s just one of those grey areas, but I plan on staying away from that grey area myself.

    • Amanda

      Thanks for this! I just went to my Winn-Dixie store to use the printable Special K (BOGO) coupons and the manager had to come over and approve them because they said they were having a ton of problems with fraud! She approved mine…but it made me wonder how many internet printables they are turning down that might actually be legit.

      • deedee

        I also used the BOG Special K this week and the mngr had to Ok it. She said they are most always refusing any FREE item coupon because of fraud. Because it said specialk.com on it was one of the reasons she ok’d it.

    • Meredith

      so, basically, it’s really safest to just print coupons from the 4 “Majors” (smartsource, redplum, coupons.com, and directly from a manufacturer’s website), right?

    • Ann

      I am so glad you did this post. I learned alot from this and I am sharing it with my blog readers as well.Thanks for the GREAT JOB!!

    • Aymie

      Thank you for this. 17 years in prison or a $5 million penalty hardly seems saving the petty price on the “fake” coupon!!!

    • Jamie

      Ok.. I have a confession … I remember using one coupon from the internet (last year) for a free pack of Hanes Underwear.(I dont remember where I printed it)….. I just looked at the full list of fraud coupons and saw that one!.. When I print a coupon, or receive one via email, is there a place I can go check to see if it is legit or not? Or should I ask the store where I get the product the coupon is for? Just wondering if anyone has any tips or suggestions……

      • Sarah

        I would check the CIC website, but mostly follow the rule that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. If it’s an emailed coupon (not emailed directly from the company) and it can’t be found on one of the reputable sites, it probably is fake.

    • margie

      They are doing with coupons as people have for years conterfeiting money. People are taking $5 bills and someway making $50’s and $100’s with them. They do it with the computers some way. In the long run, we all pay for this when companies and stores have losses because of thieves. Hopefully this can be stopped before we all lose out.

    • Chloe

      Hi Jenny & all you Southern Savers! I’ve been following this site for about a month now and have learned a lot. Thank you so much!!!

      Question re this: “Always follow the words on the coupon. If it says it is for a 6oz box, then buy the size indicated. While it might work for another size or even product that is fraudulent use of the coupon.”

      Is it ok to use a coupon for a LARGER size than indicated? For example, is it ok to use a paper towel coupon for $1/6-roll pack toward an 8-roll pack? I’ve done this a few times and never had a problem. Of course using a 6-roll coupon for a single roll would be fraudulent and I’d never do that. I’m just wondering about buying a larger (and presumably more expensive) size.

      • Abigail

        This only ok if it says “6oz OR LARGER” If the coupon just says “6oz” then you should only use it for a 6oz size.

    • Jenn


      I have a question. Is it considered ‘fraud’ if you make multiple copies of say all the Yankee candle and Bath and Body works coupons that are passed around the internet and on this site? Is there a rule to those coupons also? I would be like to have your opinion on those type of coupons also. Thank you oh so much. You are so great!!!!! :)))

      • Kristin

        I used to work at Yankee Candle and if someone came in with multiple copies of the same coupon, we would only take one. If it was two different coupons, however, we would honor both in one transaction. Not sure if it’s like that at every Yankee Candle.

    • Christy

      This is awesome info! I wonder if I should print it and take it to my Publix and Bi-Lo. They should post the stuff on their doors so fraudulent users are aware that people are paying attention! Thanks Jenny! <

    • Stephanie

      I have a question. Many coupons read: Do Not Double. Is it coupon fraud if the cashier still doubles these? I ask because it doesn’t matter whether I’m at Publix or Kroger I’ve never had them *not* double coupons. Even when the state “Do Not Double”.

      • Joanne Horan

        No. when the coupon doubles, its the store picking up the tab to keep you coming back in

    • Amber


      I had a coupon I printed directly from the Manufacture’s website a couple of weeks ago. The “print Page” came up and it allowed you to print however many you needed. I know that 99.9% of manufacture’s websites do not do this but I found this one .1% did.

    • Michelle

      Just wondering if it is “ok” to print from multilple computers. I do this currently and if it is not the correct thing to do I will stop. But I am curious whether this consitutes fraud in any way?

      • Damien Barber

        It is fine to print from multiple computers.

    • Great article. I would like to use this info on my website if it is ok with you!

    • Joanne Horan

      If you look at the internet coupon after you print it (in color), in the middle of the coupon you will be able to a holographic effect – if you don’t, chances are its a fraud. This is the quickest and easiest way to check for most coupons.

    • nicole

      WHAT ABOUT the bonus rayovac coupon you can print how ever many you want. Ive printed like 30 already.

    • Didn’t see this posted anywhere, but noticed it after you posted this earlier.

      When you print from any site, in the fine print at the bottom, it states that copying, transferring, trading or selling constitutes fraud.

      I often print IP coupons for people who need what I don’t, in order to make trades.

      How does this tie in?

      On a side note, I’ve had issues since the 1st with hitting the back button to get a second set of legitimate IPs. Anyone else? Is this part of the new change?

      • Michelle

        I have also wondered the same….are we technically not suppose to trade? Also, what about buying coupons on ebay (well, you are buying a white envelope in most cases and you are getting the coupons for free).

    • Diane

      Wow! I just looked at the CIC Web site and I had no idea coupon fraud was so rampant. Now I won’t feel so bad about the Publix cashiers double-checking my coupons. They can be a little careless in how they scan, but the coupons (especially when you print the two allowed and cut them at the same time) tend to stick together. I have started barely creasing the corner of “like” coupons so they no longer stick together and the cashiers can easily see and scan the all.

    • Amy

      I just looked at two of my coupons to find the long barcode and it has the same numbers on both. I printed it from the BeneVia site. Is it because I printed a couple coupons from their site several weeks ago? The only thing is that they are for different amounts. Meaning that several weeks ago they were $5 off coupons but now they are $1 off coupons. Can anyone help me out to understand if I can use them or not?

      • Michelle

        From what I remember, the Benevia only had the regular bar code…and they let you print as many as you want. If the amounts are different, I am sure the coupon is fine. You are printing it from their web site AND they are not putting a limit on it are they? Does it state anywhere, one per household or anything?

        • Amy

          Nope it doesn’t say it anywhere on the coupon so I guess I’m good. Thanks!

      • Beth

        Ok, so sort of on this same topic of coupons with the same bar code, I had an interesting experience yesterday at Publix. I am new to couponing (about 3 months into it) and I’ve been printing coupons and the stores have been taking them with no problem. I know most sites limit you to being able to print two of the same coupon and after printing the first one it usually gives you the option to go back to the site to print more which is when I would print my second copy. I did this yesterday and went to publix. The lines were long so a customer service team leader offered to check me out. As she was scanning my coupons she told me she couldn’t accept one of the printed coupons b/c she said it was a copy and that it was fraud. She then showed me that the numbers on the barcode were exactly the same. I explained to her that I had NOT made a copy but had done what I’d been doing for months and explained how. I hadn’t been cheating the sites just printing the way the sites allow you to. She suggested that maybe I had hit the back button and printed on accident instead of going back to the site through the option given to me after printing. This was not the case either. She was not rude at all and I was thankful to know to watch for that now b/c I certainly didn’t try to cheat the system nor would I ever want to. I’m now going to go back and check all of my printed coupons! Has anyone else had this happen?

        • seacoastmom

          I’ve never had it happen but since I just printed off 2 of the $1/2 for the Lenders Bagles I checked those. There are 2 different barcodes and they are exactly the same. However, there is a “Pin number” listed for each and THOSE numbers are different. The two $2/2 Ritz crackers Q’s I printed from Coupons.com also have the same 2 barcodes BUT the funky code in the upper right corner are different. I think that these #’s are what Jenny is refering to when she talks about the unice codes for each Q (that wording might not be correct). HTH


          • seacoastmom

            Uh, I mean “unique” codes………..

    • Joye

      I have a question…I have been told by friends that you can use a $ off 2 manufacturer’s coupon along with a manuf. coupon for each of the items in that two for a total of 3 coupons for 2 items. Is that true? I have a pretty easy going Publix near me, and I don’t want to do anything to change that, not do I want to cheat them.

      • Joye

        Oops…I meant NOR do I want to cheat them…

      • No, you can’t stack two manufacturer’s coupons on the same item, regardless of how they have set up the quantities – that is what it means when they print “one coupon per purchase.”

        When they have a coupon that’s “$1 off 2” that’s essentially the same thing as “$0.50 off 1” but it encourages you to buy more of them.

        If you want to use a (2) $0.50/1 coupons along with (1) $1/2 coupons, you would have to buy 4.

        It is different with store coupons because two different companies are offering you a discount.

    • Melissa

      This might be a dumb question, but for sites like coupons.com. How do you know how many coupons you can legitimately print and use? Will the coupon disappear once you have hit the limit or can you print as many as you want as long as you don’t copy them? I am extremely new to this and want to make sure not to break any rules.

      • Once you’ve printed your limit on that computer (usually 2) it won’t let you print anymore. If you try to print a third you will receive a message along the lines of “you have already exceeded the number of prints allowed.”

        Sometimes coupons reset which means that even if you’ve printed the limit in the past, it will let you print another set. That’s also okay.

        Basically, if a site like SmartSource or Coupons.com lets you print another coupon with a new bar code, you don’t have to worry about them being legitimate.

        • Melissa

          Thank you, that was exactly what I needed to know!

    • Leah


      I notice when I print the Food Lion coupons from your “Print from PDF” link, they often look fuzzy and my Publix cashier made a comment about how it must be a “copied” coupon the other day. I was taken back by it and really hadn’t paid it much attention before that. I just printed some today and it’s the same way. Why do they look that way and is it okay? I love my Publix store and would not want to cheat them or Food Lion for that matter. Thanks for all you do…and for posting the fraudulent info. I try to do the right thing with all my coupons and I hope everyone does the same. It would be bad to have some thoughtless few mess it up for the rest of us!

    • Karen

      I have been printing the $5 off $20 Rite Aid Adperks coupon to use at Publix. The coupon doesn’t expire for 30 days. Can I copy this coupon? I don’t want to do anything wrong. But sometimes just a lack of knowledge could lead someone in the wrong direction. Thank you so much for all you do and definately for informing us about coupon fraud. I realize now that I have done it but was not aware of it at the time. God, please forgive me. I want to be better educated so that I don’t cheat anyone. Thanks again.

      • seacoastmom

        If you can still print the coupon from the site you should probably do that. I think staying away from copying ANY coupon is probably the best bet! :@)

        • Karen

          Thank you! I wasn’t aware that what I was doing was not legal. I am new to couponing. This site has been a huge help. I will do my best to keep myself right with this wonderful money saver. Have a blessed day. :)

    • Heather

      Coupons are an incentive, not a right. Manufactors put them out to get interest in a new product or sales of multiples. Stores want your business. Manufactors do not have to give you a “gift”. Stores do not have to accept the “gift”. Would you accept a gift from a firend and tell them 40 cents is not acceptable and tell them to double it? If people continue to missuse or fraud the system, as we continually see changes, there will no longer be coupons. I wish more people would listen to Jenny and enjoy the system. Imagine if we could go to Walgreens and not feel like theifs because we have coupons and know how to use them. I love my cashiers, but at Walgreens (probably because of so much fraud) I feel I take up to much time checking out.
      Publix has such great service and clean stores, they hypothectically (adult word for pretend) do not need coupons for my patronage.

      • Karen

        I believe in my heart that alot of this is done out of ignorance. I was copying coupons but had no idea what I was doing was wrong. That is just another life lesson in how we should educate ourselves with whatever it is that we are doing.We should also help to educate others. Jenny does an awesome job with that. Thank you Jenny.

    • momtotwins+2

      What about the 40% coupon from Hobby Lobby. I usually print an extra or to to “Make someone’s day” Is this wrong?

      Just trying to be nice, not cheat anyone.

    • MeMeH

      Jenny my mother lives out in the country and can not afford the internet she would like to bring her laptop to my house and connect to the internet to print her coupons. Is this going to create a problem for me because of the unique barcode numbers printed around the border? The serial numbers on the top right are different. I wouldn’t want to do anything wrong, but would like to help mom out. I love your website. Thanks Jenny

    • crystal mclean

      I just started using this website and I was completely unware of fradulent coupons. I am scared now because after reading all of this and analizing all my printed coupons, I can’t tell what is a fradulent coupon. I went to Johnsonville.com (Johnsonville meats) and printed off coupons from their site and they look fraud to me according to everything I am reading.

      • Jenny

        Please don’t worry if you printed them from the official manufacturer site or a legitimate site like coupons.com etc you are good.

        • crystal mclean

          On the “CIC” link their is an example of a conterfeit coupon and it looks like some of these coupons. It also tells you some things to look for and one of them is if the mailing address is from CMS or Clearinghouse. They have smartsource on them and dated different dates I have lots of coupons like this and they are from smartsource itself. They do not have the manufacture watermark, codeing around the coupon, a upc at the top or watermakings where the expiration date is. I am being very paranoid I guess.

    • Cynthia

      Jenny, I have a question. I read through most of the above and didn’t see it addressed. What about coupons that print using your normal print commands, where you can change the number of prints? i.e. the Rayovac batteries coupon. There’s a code in each pack of batteries we buy and it’s all the same code, so essentially you can print it as often as needed. Is it okay to change the amount of prints to 5 or whatever needed, rather than going back through the process each time? Thanks for the education.

      • Meme

        In answer to printing out too many of the Ray-O-Vac coupons, my coupons were turned down at Ingles this evening.

        The manager said the district manager had come in this week and discussed the use of fraudulent coupons and this was one that he used as an example.

        He was very nice about it, even gave me a managers $3 discount on the $3 deal for buying 4 Fiber One products. They were out of some of the products and I couldn’t get all four, so he just gave me the $3 straight off my grocery bill instead of trying to do a raincheck with half the missing items. I thought that was very charitable.

        The customer service lady had to look over all my printed coupons and indicated it was because they were in black and white. Even though this is allowed, it makes it harder to detect copied coupons. All were ligit, except for the Ray-O-Vac cpns.

        We were treated courteously and respectfully. They explained how much they were losing because of the fraud and copied coupons.

        Hope everyone will try to learn the rules and stick with them or we will all be eating a lot of plain beans.

    • Jacklyn

      A question? I learned by accident that I am able to print two of most online coupons.My printer paper jammed when I was trying to print a really good coupon, so I contacted Smartsource. They informed me that everyone has two opportunities to print a coupon. I have also found that this is true with Bricks. I am not copying, or scanning, but I am able to print what appears to be two identical coupons. Should I be printing and using that second coupon. It is especially valuable for B1G1, but I don't want to be doing anything unethical OR illegal! Thanks for a response!

    • Missie

      I have received some coupons that do not say manufacturers coupon at the top nor do they have an expiration date. How can I tell if they are real?

    • Missie

      I have received some coupons that do not say manufacturers coupon at the top nor do they have an expiration date. How can I tell if they are real?