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Coupon Fraud - Profiting From 'Cents Off' Coupons

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 51 Issue: 5 Dated: (May 1982) Pages: 12-15
K McChesney
Date Published
4 pages
This article discusses coupon fraud, with attention to the coupon system, participants in fraudulent redemption, and controlling fraud.
Recently, all levels of law enforcement have become involved in the fight against fraudulent coupon redemption. Coupon abuse can include fraud by trick or deceit, fraud by wire, mail fraud, grand theft, or theft from interstate shipment. Under the present coupon system, major manufacturers of food and household products use 'cents-off' coupons as a method of advertising. Over 80 billion coupons were printed in 1980, and approximately 80 percent of shoppers occasionally use these coupons. Since the average face value of a coupon is about 18 cents, coupon fraud is a multimillion dollar business. At the approximately 70 coupon redemption centers in the United States, coupons are checked for signs of fraud, such as the submission of large quantities of coupons appearing to be in mint condition. Consumers participate in coupon fraud by submitting expired coupons when purchasing products or by redeeming coupons for items they have not purchased. Retailers participate by buying coupons from consumers or from magazine and newspaper vendors. Coupon middlemen sort, count, package, and mail a retailer's coupons to manufacturers or redemption centers. Stricter accountability and control of coupons have been the result of coupon investigations throughout the country. In addition, manufacturers have found that coupons discovered inside packaging are most often legitimately redeemed. Retailers can curb coupon misuse by submitting coupons used only in legitimate purchases. Consumers may report coupon fraud to manufacturers or to law enforcement agencies. Three footnotes and four photographs are provided.