NEW YORK – You've probably received at least one online coupon via e-mail. Maybe it was in a newsletter from one of your favorite retailers. Or it could have been from a discount travel Web site you frequent.
More people are opting to click and print coupons on the Web, rather than clip them out of the Sunday newspaper. But fake coupons are apt to pop up. Here are some guidelines for dealing with online coupons:
Look for indications the coupon is genuine. There should be: specific details about the deal and redemption requirements (one coupon per visit, minimum purchase of $50, etc.), a register bar code and ring code, and an expiration date.
Fake coupons are apt to be vague about the details, and may be extremely easy to access. Many retailers offer Web coupons only for e-mail subscribers. Don't ever pay for coupons — that's a sure sign of a fake.
If the coupon claims to be from a specific retail store, call the store before you get in the car. Read the claim to a sales representative, and ask if it's one of the company's current Web deals.
If you're already at the store, ask to speak with a manager about the coupon — before you start shopping.
Even if the coupon is real, use common sense when deciding whether to redeem it. Take advantage of online coupons to stock up on items your family uses, and shop at stores you frequent anyway.
Be cautious when it comes to coupons for items you don't normally buy, or for stores that are out of your way. You might actually spend more by adding these luxuries to your shopping list. If the coupon turns out to be a fake, you'll have wasted both time and money.