Savings.comThe Online Coupon Scams: Beware

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Verified customer (ARA) - The recession has been a period of ups and downs for many Americans. Unemployment is up, the stock market's down. Retail sales are down, but use of coupons - especially online coupons or coupon codes - is way up.

According to a report by The Nielsen Company, two-thirds of American households used coupons so far this year for a total of 1.6 billion coupons redeemed. That's an increase of 23 percent over last year.

With the rise of the almighty coupon comes increasing reports of coupon fraud and scams. The Better Business Bureau recently posted a list of tips for online coupon users, warning consumers that efforts to save a few bucks may end up costing them in the long run if they're not cautious. Among the guidelines offers consumers, the most important is to be wary of sites that require you to divulge personal information such as name, address and account numbers in order to redeem their coupons.

Most reputable online coupon sites such as won't require anything from the user in order to use their coupon codes. In fact, the only information necessary to use the Dell coupons or Home Depot Coupons or any of the coupon codes for thousands of online stores at is an e-mail address. And that's only if you want to submit or vote on a deal or receive the weekly e-mail newsletter.

A few things to keep in mind to avoid online coupon scams:

* Never pay for coupons or access to deals. There are plenty of free deals and coupon codes available online. According to the Coupon Information Corporation, selling coupons is illegal. Even if it wasn't illegal, the practice of selling coupons is shady at best.

* If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many sites will post deals that sound unbelievable - and they usually are. Don't be suckered by outlandish claims and hype.

* Look for signs of life. Reputable coupon sites like are updated daily. Old, broken or expired deals may not signal a scam site, but you certainly don't want to waste your time on a Web site that isn't cleaned up and cleared of broken or expired codes. Regular maintenance is a good indication of valid and authentic deals.

* Vote with your feet. Highly trafficked sites are generally more indicative of consumer confidence while low traffic often equals less experience. Check sites like or to see what kind of traffic the coupon/deal Web site is getting. If the site receives under half a million visitors a month, they're pretty small time so they may not have the experience and knowledge to post the best and most legitimate offers. Coupons are a hot commodity in today's economy and that means that the field is being flooded with fly-by-night sites trying to cash in on the new trend. Look for stable, established sites to avoid potential scammers.

During these tough economic times, online coupons and coupon codes offer consumers a way to stretch their too-tight budgets just a bit further. The Promotional Marketing Association estimates there are $400 billion worth of coupons available so there are definitely plenty of savings to be had. By making sure to use a reputable online coupon Web site, you can achieve your goal of saving money without falling prey to coupon fraud.

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