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Too Good to Be True?

Beware the Really Great Online Coupon

With the increased time people are spending on social media and shopping online during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have been jumping on their chance to rip off the public. 

Father’s Day, graduations, and weddings are also upon us, so it’s not surprising to see more coupons offered for extremely good deals at major retailers – especially from retailers known to be struggling because of the pandemic’s challenges.

But beware, scammers are offering fake retail coupons intended to steal your personal information and/or download malware. Consumers should be certain of the differences between a real deal and one that could be a counterfeit coupon. It’s also smart to talk to your children, especially teenagers, about spotting these coupon scams.

How the Scam Works:

Often found circulating on Facebook and other social media sites, counterfeit coupons offer several avenues for a scammer whose goal is to rip you off. Sometimes these coupons are just a way for a website to generate extra hits online, but sometimes the reality is more malicious. How? It might well be a scammer trying to steal your personal information and in turn, use it for illegal or immoral activities.

Innocent-appearing scam-based coupons are widely circulated on Facebook; many people click on and re-share those posts. The coupon link can take them to a third-party website which, in order to get the coupon or voucher, asks for personal information that’s likely to then download a virus or malware. The consumer never receives the coupon/voucher and doesn’t know where their personal information was sent.

Fake coupons from Bath & Body Works, Costco, Aldi, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s have been the most frequently shared in the past few months. These coupons might offer up to $100 or more in free merchandise, and more if you share the link with others on social media.

Here’s what to look for when identifying coupon scams:

• Be skeptical. The better the deal looks, the more likely it’s fake. It’s easy for scammers to steal logos and images of established businesses to create counterfeit coupons.

• Check directly with the source. To verify the legitimacy of an offer, visit the company’s website to look for the coupon, or contact the company directly.

• Look at the expiration date. Most coupons have one. The lack of one is an indication that the coupon may be phony. Coupons for free items usually expire quicker than others.

• Verify the source. If a coupon comes to you in an email, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) and the URL destination address should appear. If that address looks like a random assortment of numbers and letters, do not click on it.

• Check to see if the website is secure. There should be an “s” after “http” in the URL to indicate it’s a secure site. No “s” may mean it’s a phishing attempt to get your information or to install malware on your computer.

• Do a web search. Searching by the offer, business name, and the word “scam” can often bring up information showing which offers are fake.

• Don’t share your personal information. Legitimate businesses do not ask for private information such as credit card numbers or bank accounts for coupons or giveaways. Any promotional offer that asks for personal information is almost always a scam.

As we spend even more time online, shopping and socializing, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep your information and family safe. If you encounter scams or frauds in the virtual world, or in the real world, please let the BBB know through the Scam Tracker at so we can help to better protect consumers. 

Barry N. Moore is president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia, including Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Petersburg, along with forty-two Virginia counties. Barry lives in Richmond with his family.
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