Posted: January 11, 2012

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me… there must be 50 ways to illegally coupon.   It grieves me so to see my readers in pain not knowing if coupons are legal or not. I have had a few worrisome comments posted on my blog lately.  People that perhaps are newbies to couponing and simply don’t realize that they are talking about doing something illegal, and don’t realize how it can affect the rest of us.  So I thought I’d share some basic tips and leave the comments open for suggestions!

Straight-out (or up??!?) Illegal Couponing Activity:

Hop on the bus, Gus: You can’t make your own coupons.  The FBI recently arrested a student who was making his own coupons and posting them online. He could face up to 30 years in jail.   Hop on the bus to prison if you plan on making or distributing fraud coupons!

Here’s some guidelines I use to determine if a coupon is fake:

If you see a coupon for FREE with no purchase necessary, and it is a PDF, 99% of the time it is a fraud.    A pdf is a coupon that can be printed over and over with no print limits, and usually is not hosted on the companies website.   In very few cases, companies will release PDF’s, but the url of them will be their own website.  Like  Not  The part infront of .com is how you tell if it’s the real companies website.  Exception: sometimes if a company emails you a coupon it won’t be hosted on their site, but it should have been emailed from the real company so you’ll know it’s legit.


  •  is the real website
  • is not the target website, the part right in front of the .com doesn’t say Target!  Anyone can add Walmart, Target, or anything like that infront of their url and add a / to make it look more legit even though they aren’t.

Legit coupons are usually offered: on companies facebook pages, through,,, redplum or smartsource.

You can’t photocopy coupons.  Not even internet printables!   Read my post here on the Cookie Caper – it’s a hoot!  You don’t want to photocopy coupons because stores will stop taking internet printables, which affects us all!

You can’t steal newspapers.  Taking the inserts out and leaving the rest of the paper behind is still theft!

You can’t use coupons on items they weren’t intended for.  If a coupon says it’s for 6 oz. or larger, you can’t use it on 5.9 oz.  It may “scan” but that is still fraud.  I know I make mistakes in matchups, I am only human and I am using my Coupon Database which could have typo-errors in it, but if I ever find them or a reader finds them, I try to quickly update the post and correct the mistake.  There is a lot of fine print on coupons, and I try to follow it all.

You can’t piggyback. 

Bad Etiquette:

Make a new plan, Stan:  Plan in advance.  One example is the dreaded Shelf Clearer.  I have a whole post on how to do Special Orders  just that so you never clear shelves, but you can stock up on cuckoo sales!

Don’t mean to be coy, Roy:  Think you can be sly and remove peelies?   Peelies are on the products they are supposed to be used on.   If there is a blinkie, you can take a coupon or two.  But if a peelie is directly on a product, leave it there unless you are buying that product.  Are you scratching your head – what is a peelie? What is a blinkie? If these words confuse you, you will want to watch my silly video where I show you these in-store and where to find them!

Good Etiquette:

Slip out the back, Jack:  When you are planning on doing multiple transactions, I always tell people who get behind me in line that they may want to get in another line as I am a couponer.  If I forget and people get behind me, I do a transaction or two, then go back to the end of the line – slip out the back 🙂 – and go through again.

Just drop off the key, Lee: I am a coupon fairy and leave behind the keys to couponing for others to pick up and learn (learn more about coupon fairies!).  I always leave coupons from the newspaper, never internet printables that someone could photocopy.

Update: as reader Rick mentioned, it is good etiquette to send your expired coupons overseas because troops can use them up to 6 months expired.

Get yourself free!  Free from worrying about if you are in the wrong or right.  If it feels wrong, it probably is!  Leave a comment below on behavior you are unsure about and I’ll try to answer it if I know.  I believe in the morning you’ll begin to see the light.

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