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Top 4 Online Coupon Code Scams and Ways to Avoid Them

Online Shopping Scams

Online Shopping ScamsOnline coupons are one of the important reasons that buyers prefer shopping with big eCommerce marketplace sites like eBay, TrueGether or Amazon these days, but the irony is that many buyers are now resorting to the brick-and-mortar shopping ways due to scams related to online shopping, among which defrauding related to online coupon codes is the worst. They may lead to the dire situation where the buyer may fall prey to an identity theft or get looted by grifters who gain access to the buyers’ sensitive credit card information or other confidential data. It is best to apprise yourself of these common yet perilous online coupon scams before stepping into the quicksand.

Original Coupon Provider ‘Dupes’

This is the most common scam that has the cyber vigilance companies raising a red flag time and again, but still has many buyers tagged scapegoats by scammers. The method is executed by sending emails of coupon codes to regular shoppers as an appreciation to their continued patronage, or as a bulletin of the upcoming sales or deals through fake links that redirect users to a self-installing malware page. They may also include a zip file as an attachment to the email that discount craving, naive buyers would download only to discover that they have been hoodwinked. A common scam in the recent past has been by the impostors of Groupon, which is a famous coupon service provider.

Avoiding This Scam

The best way around is for buyers to understand that emails from legitimate coupon companies never carry an attachment or hyperlinks with them. In case the emails do have a hyperlink, it is better to hover over the same and check if it reflects a legitimate site or file name on your screen or has a suspicious link or .exe file being highlighted. Immediately report and block such emails to avoid more emails in the future.

Social Media Scourge

Social Media platforms have become an inherent part of everyone’s lives which shoppers trust for their online discounts as well. Of course, it can offer a great marketplace to get amazing discount coupons and irresistible offers but is often the hunting ground for phishers, hackers, and fraudsters. Most of them create fake accounts that appear identical to legitimate coupon issuing companies and often post bogus coupons on their pages that are similar to the patterns followed by the original coupon providers. They often follow a mechanism called clickjacking that induces users to click on the like button that would activate a malware or would redirect users to a fake website that would request personal and confidential sensitive information like the CVV of their credit card, for example from users to unlock the coupon(s).

Avoiding This Scam

Usually, most of the legitimate business pages are verified by the Operating Authorities. Ensuring that only verified pages are considered is the first step to fraud prevention. It is a better idea to get coupons from original sites which are authorised to sell online rather than go looking for them on social media pages. Creating a separate email ID only for coupons and shopping mailers is a good practice. As another practice, it is better to reveal only your email ID and nothing more for unlocking coupons on social media pages.

Fake Free Gift Coupon References

Either through hyperlinks on messengers or social media posts from known sources, fraudulent free gift coupons for an iPhone/iPad or other special products are sent to scam victims. Since these come from friends or trusted sources, users often tend to blindly believe the scam and click on these links that would take them to a malware installing page or to a page that would request credit card or other sensitive information in order to unlock the coupon. Some scammers request for mobile phone number detail and misuse the same to get an OTP from the user’s bank using a cell phone cloning software to access the user’s account or credit card linked to the number. Telemarketers often use this technique to access a customer’s number and bombard them with promotional calls. Sometimes hitting a hyperlink may put you in a loop of pop-ups that won’t stop until you install the malware or enter your sensitive information.

Avoiding This Scam

The best way to avoid this predicament is to avoid clicking on links sent by friends and family or that appear to be sent by them. Usually, these are self-generated by scammers. Never share your mobile number or address where scammers can contact you or access your information. Anything that is too good to be true is often the opposite and a mental block against such offers can definitely help. Authentic sellers never offer anything for free through social media or email promotions, they try to get in touch through official sources if it ever happens.

Scams with QR Code Scans

The easiest and most convenient option to do online shopping in holiday season is by using mobile apps of the shopping site. Some coupons require you to scan a Quick Response (QR) code that appears like a barcode through your mobile device to unlock some amazing deals using a scanning software. These unlock a wonderful deal through a coupon code. Many scammers send counterfeit emails to buyers with fake coupons that may lead to identity theft, information misuse, and even malware installation on the buyer’s phone. It might also install a hidden software that clones the mobile information, texts, apps etc. to give parallel access to scammers.

Avoiding This Scam

QR codes are unique and have a number of steps associated with authentication like an automated OTP to your registered mobile phone and/or email ID. Most websites will need you to be registered with them and Login to implement the QR Code.
Anything otherwise is just fake.


Though many virtual window shoppers do not mind spending a little more in order to unveil some attractive coupons or cashback offers, they must be wary of the perils of such vulnerability. A word of advice would be that authentic and legitimate coupons cannot be reused and have an expiry date. Most of them come with a legal disclaimer note that prevents buyers from duplicating, reselling, transferring, purchasing, and altering the coupons. No original coupon issuer asks the buyer to provide financial or personal information or pay a deposit for purchasing the coupon as legit coupons are never sold online.


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