Hidden Price Of Web Coupons

Heather Sokol is an Indiana mom on a mission. She hits the supermarket aisles armed with coupons, bringing her bargains with her.

During a recent trip to the market she paid just 49 cents for spaghetti sauce. At that price, it's cheaper than making it.

As CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, that makes feeding a young family a whole lot easier. For her, the savings really add up.

"I save about $5,000 to $6,000 a year, and if I weren't doing this, I would have to make that money up somewhere," she says. "So this allows me to stay at home with my girls."

After a slow decline, coupon use has bounced in recent years. By some estimates, three out of four shoppers use coupons each year, saving more than $3 billion. And unlike your mom's coupon club, we are increasingly clicking as well as clipping.

The vast majority of coupons still come with newspapers or in the mail, but the industry says Internet "couponing" has tripled in the last year. But that success has come with a price. As the number coupons from the Internet increased, so too did the number of fakes.

"That was the case about a year ago, before some protections were put in place by the industry," says Heather Harde with Smartsource.com. "Today, virtually all retailers do accept Internet coupons."

CBS News contacted the five largest supermarket chains, and only one, Kroger, currently has some restrictions.

But Skolol still relies mainly on the ones she clips because stores near her are still leery.

"There's a little bit of a problem getting those accepted in the stores," she says.

There are two quick ways to tell if you are dealing with fakes from the Internet.

If you can print the coupon directly from your computer screen, it's probably bogus. Legitimate coupons require more work.

And, if you have to pay for a coupon, it's most likely a fake.

Also, check whether the Web site shares data because some sell off your shopping information.

As for Skolol, she's found another use for the Internet. She runs a Web site that lists the best bargains in town to help people save, if not for themselves, then others.

"What I do is highlight the deals that charities are in need of," she says.

And she still helps herself when it comes time to check out.

  • Jaime Holguin

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