How to Safely Find the Best Free Coupons Online and Avoid Scams
Safely Finding Best Coupons...
Finding those coupons, gift cards, and rebates online... Here is everything you need to know. This is both a pragmatic and cautionary article. The phrase “free coupons” is one of the most dangerous search terms you can use. Because this search term is so popular; all the hackers, scammers, ID thieves, and con artists are all over it. If you go to the wrong website, your computer is toast; and if you have any personal information (including passwords) on your computer, so is your ID.
The objectives of this coupon page are to:
- Show how to reduce the odds of becoming another scam victim, and yet still be able to find the absolute best free coupons out there.
- Teach ways to search smart, search fast, and get the best deal.
- Review brand coupons, store coupons, printable coupons, coupon codes, gift cards, rebates, and getting the best sales prices.
Year 2017 re: Promo and Coupon Codes
Seems like half of them don't work these days, but they are still worth the effort. I've noticed in many cases the promo or coupon code doesn't reflect during the first part of the order process, but then it does show up during the final stage. So if the amount involved is worth it, it might be worth plowing through the entire process just to be sure. You can always still abandon before the commitment click. In fact, that happens a lot and the websites are used to it.
Year 2016 re: Grocery Printable Coupons
Everything is coupon code, coupon code, coupon code these days. However, printable grocery coupons are still alive and well; simply do a search for same. What with printer ink costing the usual ransom, it really isn't worth it for the smaller coupons; something to keep in mind.
- Stick to the larger value coupons
- Set printer to B&W only
- Make sure all barcode numbers are legible. If the clerk is unable to scan the bar code, they can still manually enter the numbers.
Year 2015 re: Additional Resources
This Consumer Resources Page has 97 consumer information resource links, including product comparison sites and well-established coupon sites.
Year 2014 re: Rebates
It can be worthwhile to go to Google News and do a search for:
- rebates "your city name"
- rebates "your state name"
Year 2013 re: Counterfeit Coupons
There are news reports the frequency of counterfeit coupons have increased substantially. As stated further down this page, never buy a coupon, gift card, or rebate, etc. No exceptions. And this especially includes websites like eBay, Craigslist, and so forth. Really, if you happen to stumble across a coupon-selling website, depart immediately. And then run a malware/virus scan while you are at it.
Year 2012 re: Gift Cards
Every so often the Sales & Marketing departments have some sort of new mantra, fad, or other bright idea. This time it is gift cards. Not the kind you buy to give, but the kind the store gives you to entice you to make a purchase.
There are two types of these kinds of gift cards.
- One kind is really just a coupon called by another name, as in "Here, have a gift card. Now go buy something. Restrictions will apply."
- The other kind of gift card could be described by the words "kickback" or "rebate", as in "Hi. If you buy something from us, we will give you a gift card you can use to buy something else later for free or at a reduced price.
The bottom line is one now wants to include the search phrase "gift card" as part of the word-search repertoire.
Security Software Notes
It’s a sad fact of life security software is mandatory in this day and age. If you don’t yet have security software on your computer, now is the time to get it.
Some of the most popular products are Symantec/Norton, ZoneAlarm, McAfee, and AVG. Some security software versions are free. Just type “security software” into your favorite search engine; the first few pages of results will include security software reviews from several well known PC magazines and websites. These sources will also have lots of general security information for you.
Read them and you will easily know what you need to know. This is consumer software; you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to use it.
It’s All About Image
A string of data about you is given to every website you visit. Among other things, this data string contains the address of the previous website you just visited. For that matter, it is not unheard of for a website to go trolling through the cookies on your hard drive (cookies are “calling cards” your previously visited websites have left behind). Websites can be programmed to respond to this information. The keywords used in a search query can also be used by websites to determine what information they will display.
The image you present can affect the price you get. A person coming from a high-end, luxury item site will get one price. A person coming from a competing discount store site will get another price. Which price do you think will be more advantageous? It gets even better. What kind of price do you think a website will set for someone using “coupon” in their search query? They know you are smart, aware, frugal, and probably a serious buyer. The act of doing a coupon search will not only result in finding coupons; many times it will result in displaying the best sales prices.
Are there a bunch of ads and links surrounding this article? They all know you are reading an article about coupons, doing smart searches, and getting the best prices. As such, they have adjusted their coupon amounts and sales prices accordingly.
Constructing Your Search Query
You will avoid a lot of trouble by simply not using the standalone search phrase “free coupons”.
A primary search rule is to never pluralize your search words. Doing so will limit your search results, but not in the way you want. Always use the singular. The singular will automatically include all the plurals, but the plural will omit all the singulars. For example, if you are looking for coupons for printers, you would enter “coupon printer”, not “coupons printers”. While you’re at it, you might as well include rebates in your search. So your search string is now “coupon rebate printer”. For this article’s purposes, do not put your searches inside quotes.
You want competition. You want to include two or three brand names in your search query. You want the websites to come up having the competition factor happening. To continue the previous example, your search query would now look like this: “coupon rebate printer kodak canon lexmark”. The brand names you use are the ones you came up with when you did your previous homework as to quality, rating, price comparison, and other how-to-buy-a-printer research. Note the use of lowercase in the example. This illustrates the use of another primary search rule. Never use uppercase in your search words. Doing so limits your results the same way as plurals do. Always use lowercase. The lowercase will automatically include all uppercase, but not vice versa.
Omit the search word “free”; it is not needed.
You want aggression. You want websites who are aggressive in their coupon activities. In other words, they are constantly updating their pages with the newest offers. Besides, who wants to sort through a bunch of obsolete information and expired coupons? To do this you need to use a search engine having advanced search options. The search option you want is the date range. Select “past week” or whatever is closest.
You’ve entered your search words, you’ve picked your date range, you clicked Safe Search ON (why not?), and you even remembered to click the search button. You’re now looking at your list of websites and ads. The entries may include brand coupons, store coupons, printable coupons, coupon codes, and rebates. You will also notice a bunch of sales prices.
Now you’ve got to sort through them. Generally speaking you will be looking for two coupons, a product coupon and a store/website coupon/code, your objective being to combine the two. Some coupons will let you do that; some will not. It will depend on the fine print. The “may not be combined with other offers” exclusion sometimes will only mean you can’t use two product coupons or two store coupons; using one of each may be perfectly acceptable. You won’t know until you try. Once you’ve found your coupons, you then check for the best outright sales price.
Now it’s just a matter of deciding whether to make the transaction or not. See the security notes below.
More Security Notes
Are you thinking of doing business with a website name you have never heard of? It is strongly recommended you first go to a search engine and enter the website’s name and the word “scam”, "ripoff", etc. If there’s a whole bunch of complaints, you might want to reconsider.
Does the website want you to click and agree to a multi-page, fine print contract? If so, it is recommended you immediately leave the website. You don’t have to sign multi-page, fine print contracts when buying something at a brick-and-mortar store; why should you have to sign a contract on a website? Whatever the contract is, it most assuredly is not designed to be in your best interests. The same applies to coupon sites; there is no legitimate reason for you to have to agree to any sort of contract before receiving your coupons. Giving a coupon site your primary email address is not a good idea either.
What with the internet being the internet, there are lots of coupon scams to go along with all the other scams. Never buy a coupon, coupon code, rebate certificate, etc. Sure, maybe it only costs $1.00 to buy $30.00 worth of coupons (which may or may not be valid), but now they have your debit/credit card number. And if you then clicked agreement on a contract, you will probably regret it. The risk/reward ratio just isn’t worth it. Don’t do it.
Safe and Happy Hunting!
And a few afterthoughts...
How is your Windows (or other OS) firewall doing? Is it on and running and active; is its exception list the way you want it to be? If using Windows, how is Windows Update doing; has it been used recently to get all the latest free security updates from Microsoft? Both items are located in your Control Panel (or wherever).
Have you recently downloaded and opened a bunch of new files? Might not be a bad idea to do a system security scan at the end of the session.
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