It's best to be cautious when dealing with online coupons

A tried-and-true way to save money in a tough economy is clipping coupons. Be-cause of the Internet, though, a savvy consumer no longer has to wield a pair of scissors in order to reap rewards.

 

The popularity of online coupons is increasing, and so the Better Business Bureau offers the following facts, advice for identifying a deal and ways to avoid deceptive offers.

The number of American adults using online coupons rose by 39 percent, to 36 million, between 2005 and 2008, according to a survey conducted by Simmons/Experian Research and Coupons Inc.

The survey also found that online users account for nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the total 148 million consumers who use coupons.

According to the CEO of Coupons.com, a popular online coupon Web site, the company is seeing a huge increase in popularity because of the recession.

In March, the company experienced a 192 percent increase in the value of coupons printed from its site when compared with the previous year.

The total value of the coupons printed out in that month alone was $57 million.

We're all looking for ways to save money, and redeeming online coupons is growing in popularity as a result.

Some coupons, however, are not as great a deal as they might appear, so consumers should use caution when clicking on coupons.

The BBB offers the following advice on redeeming online coupons:

- Consumers should check to see if the coupon is being offered directly by the store or if it is being offered by a third-party such as a partner or affiliate.

If it is via a third-party, they might ask for additional info or require that the consumer sign up for additional services to redeem the coupon.

If so, use extreme caution before divulging any personal information. Consumers can check the company out, free, at www.bbb.org.

- Be wary of pop-up ad coupon offers that require you to immediately click to redeem. Clicking on the ad might automatically sign the consumer up for services they were not interested in receiving, causing him to be billed every month.

- Carefully read the terms and conditions for the use of the coupon, check for the expiration date, limitations of use and whether it is an online coupon good for online purchases only or if it can also be redeemed at the store location.

- Because some stores are concerned about fraud related to online coupons, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. Contact the store where you wish to use the coupon to find out whether the coupon is being honored.

- Be extremely cautious if the coupon requires that the consumer call the company to redeem the value of the coupon, and/or has any requirement to give personal information.

- Don't fall for phony coupons by e-mail. Many fake coupons have been making the rounds by e-mail, and just because it may come from a friend or family member, don't assume the coupon is legitimate.

For more advice on saving money, visit www.bbb.org.

Kelvin Collins is the President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA Inc. Refer questions or complaints about a company or charity directly to the BBB at (800) 763-4222, www.bbb.org or by e-mail to info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org or info@csra.bbb.org.

 

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