Money savings on the web - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Money savings on the web

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Nancy Lombardo isn't so different than the rest of us who make a weekly practice of cutting coupons.  But she also wanders the web for savings.

"It's easy to find them. I can type in what I'm looking for specifically."

But Lombardo recently found that clicking on a coupon isn't always the great deal it appears to be.

She was lured into a site for savings and ended up losing hundreds of dollars.  A pop up ad promised a deal if she would just swap some personal information.

But the company ended up sending her products she didn't intentionally order and her credit card statement reflects it.

Consumer experts say this is just one reason you need to be wary of the pop up.

"They may be asking a series of questions in order to obtain some of their free coupons, but these questions could be setting you up to steal your identity. Some pop up ads may also be trying to keep your attention while they're downloading spyware to your computer system. Others may be downloading a virus." says Michelle Corey of the Better Business Bureau.

And don't automatically trust coupons that arrive via email, even if they come from a friend or relative.  They could be fake.  

Always confirm with the store that an e-coupon is legit before you shop.

"Sometimes they look very realistic. They actually have the logo, but it doesn't make it real though," says Corey.

Before visiting any savings site, check it out.  Always look to se whether an online coupon is being offered directly by the store of by a third party, which may ask you to share more personal information.

If you're concerned after doing your research, the BBB advises you look at newspaper ads and retailers own supplements or a manufacturer's actual website.

Lombardo is still fighting the charges that were made to her account.

"This has been one nightmare of an experience."

Tips for Avoiding Online Coupon Scams from top online coupon site Savings.com:

  • If you're required to pay for coupons, you're getting ripped off.  Coupons should always be free. 
  • If a site requires that you pay to use their service, you're being scammed.  You'll most likely be able to find the exact same deals, if not better deals, on a website that offers them for free.
  • Steer clear of coupon sites that don't provide a way to contact them.  If you're looking for a deal on a site that doesn't have a contact us link or feedback channels, you should find another site to browse.  There's a good chance there aren't any real people behind a site like that - just a computer feeding in "deals."
  • Searching a site where people find, post, test and rate real deals is the best way to discover coupon gems.
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it often is.  If you see a deal that looks too good to be true in the sponsored links / paid search results on a given search engine, there's a good chance it's bogus.
  • Marketers will inflate discounts in paid search results to draw people on to their landing pages, but those killer deals are usually duds.
  • If there's no sign of life on the site, that's a red flag.  Look for coupons on a site that has visible human activity, whether it is the usernames of people entering deals, comments, blog posts, deal ratings, etc.
  • Seeing that a large number of people have used a deal or commented positively on a deal is a good indication that it's actually working.
  • Be wary of sites that don't update their coupons/content.  When a site has an enormous number of deals for a particular store, that probably means that they don't remove expired deals from their site.
  • In a case like that, you're far less likely to find a legitimate coupon than if you were looking for a deal on a site that removes expired offers and that shows expiration dates.
  • Low traffic often equals less experience.  Check free sites like Compete.com to see what kind of traffic the coupon/deal site is getting.
  • If the site receives under half a million visitors a month, they're pretty small time, and they may not have the experience and knowledge to get you the best and most legitimate offers.
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