Super Couponing Tips: Friends don't let friends photocopy
Dear Jill: I'm in a world of trouble due to coupon misuse! How can I correct this matter?
A few months ago, a friend started borrowing and copying my coupons since she maxed out the number of coupons she could print on her account. Last week, I discovered I couldn't print mine, either. I had a sinking feeling that this was happening because we were both using my account. But then she hit me with the big one: She made copies of my coupons for other people, too.
I'm too afraid to contact the company because I fear some type of harsh punishment. I should have known better. I'm hurt, embarrassed and scared to death of possible legal action on the company's part. What can I do? - Scared Couponer
Dear Scared: I'm sorry to hear that your friend advocated photocopying and reusing coupons.
It's coupon fraud, plain and simple, and reading the fine print on any coupon will tell you that.
Printable coupons from major websites have a unique identifier, typically an additional bar code or serial number. This identifier is tied to your computer's IP address. That means any coupon misuse can be traced back to you.
When your photocopies come through the redemption house, several things happen.
First, the clearinghouse scans the coupons and flags any photocopies. The store is not reimbursed for photocopied coupons.
At the clearinghouse, photocopied coupons are pulled from the conveyor belt, tagged and reported. Coupon processing systems keep these fraudulent coupons for at least one year. Once photocopies are identified, coupon sites can disable the printing plug-in on the computer that generates the fakes.
Unfortunately, having printing privileges revoked is only the first step. The company can also ask the Internet service provider for records that show if the customer was signed onto that IP address at the time the fraudulent coupons were printed. At that point, they may prosecute.
Coupons state in the fine print that they are void if copied and that any other usage constitutes fraud.
It's irresponsible for anyone to advocate photocopying coupons, especially someone who uses coupons often. It saddens me that after her own printing privileges were turned off, your friend continued her actions on your computer, copying and distributing an unknown quantity of coupons to an unknown number of people. She cost you the printing privileges on that computer, but if you ever buy a replacement, you'll have a new, unique hardware address. Go forth, but photocopy coupons no more!
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.