MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Millions of us are stretching our dollars with coupons. You can find them in the newspaper, magazines or online -- but Contact 6 says be careful where you clip! There is a new coupon scam on the rise and it is costing us all.
We use coupons to save money, but ironically, coupons are now at the heart of a new scam that is costing U.S. companies millions of dollars.
"For every coupon successfully counterfeited, it costs the manufacturer $1 million," U.S. Postal Inspector Roberta Bottoms said.
These counterfeit coupons are usually sold on the internet.
"Customers went online and were the winning bidder on some Internet auction," Bottoms said.
Once the site had contact information, consumers would be messaged or emailed asking if they would like to buy a large amount of coupons.
"The initial online auction was just basically for them to find people that they could sell a large quantity of coupons to at one time," Bottoms said.
Postal inspectors learned the coupons were fakes.
"Initially, these counterfeits will scan and be accepted at your local retail company but it is costing the manufacturer money and in turn costing the consumer money," Bottoms said.
In fact, the Coupon Information Corporation says coupon fraud is costing manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Manufacturers say they are forced to pass along these losses by raising the prices of their goods.
"The manufacturers have put retail establishments on notice that they will no longer reimburse them," Bottoms said.
Bottom line -- no consumer should ever pay for a coupon.
"People use coupons to save money and in this case you might be actually wasting your money," Bottoms said.
Contact 6 advises using coupons you find in newspapers, manufacturers' websites or authorized coupon distributors -- and not downloading coupons from Internet forums.