Buy $110 of groceries, get another $100 worth free. It’d be tough for many people to pass on that deal, if it weren’t a fraud.
Customers of Kroger — the nation’s largest supermarket chain — were tempted with a coupon offering that very deal this week on social media. The retailer was forced to issue a statement distancing itself from the phony offer.
“This giveaway is not affiliated with or supported by the Kroger Co.,” the statement posted to the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts read. “Our team is actively working with Facebook as well as the domain service provider to address the concern.”
A spokesperson for Kroger told the Scripps National Desk on Tuesday, “We have contacted Facebook to block the posts generated by the hoax site as spam and we have also contacted the domain name provider to request the site be pulled down.”
Fake coupons don't only affect the store whose logo is printed onto the offer, it can also lead to problems for competing retailers.
"Since our stores accept certain competitor depending on location, (a fraudulent Kroger coupon) would potentially affect us," said Maria Brous, director of media relations for Publix supermarkets. "As soon as we have confirmation that the coupon is fraudulent, we make a point to inform our customers on social media of the fraudulent coupons."
In the pre-Internet days, coupon scams would often be carried out by lone individuals aided by employees of the store they were trying to rip off. Today, social media makes it easy for innocent deal-hunters to potentially become complicit by unknowingly using a fraudulent coupon they found online.
In May, Lowe’s home improvement customers were scammed by a false offer that also was spread over Facebook. In this case, users were asked to share a Facebook post that included the Lowe’s logo, then comment on the original post.
Like Kroger, company officials used social media to debunk the rumor, telling a shopper, “This coupon is not valid … please be cautious of these offers.”
In February, a similar scam tempted Target shoppers online. It offered a $100 food and beverage coupon simply for sharing a post on Facebook.
The non-profit Coupon Information Corporation, a retail fraud awareness group, keeps a running database of known fraudulent coupons on its website. Seven new fake coupons were added to the list on Monday alone, all for Pepsi items.
To avoid scams, the Better Business Bureau offers a short, easy to remember maxim: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.