Be Safe When Using In-Store Coupons

We all receive those coupons in the mail — 20 percent off at a favorite houseware store, or buy one-get one at the local pizzeria.

The Federal Trade Commission has tips for stopping unsolicited offers and coupons if you don't want to receive them in the mail. But perhaps you look forward to those coupons, because you actually use them. What then?

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Like registering for schoolsigning up for hotel wifi or anything else that asks for your personal information, ask first who is receiving it and what they will do with it. Does the store shred the coupons after receiving them? Toss them whole into the dumpster? Leave them sitting around the counter for the next patron to see?

Also, think about who might get their hands on your coupon before you even redeem it. Similar to carrying your Medicare card, these coupons often have personal information on them. If your purse is stolen or car broken into, you don't want to worry about an identity thief knowing where you shop and what your address is.

Consider treating the personal information on a coupon like that on a Medicare card or other important identification. Ask if you can have the coupon back after you use it. If not, ask if you can tear your address off the coupon, or black out the address before you redeem it. Find out what the store does with its shredded coupons, and what its privacy policy is.

If you aren't comfortable with a store's answers to the above questions, consider whether that discount makes up for your uncertainty. Your peace of mind might be worth the extra money you will spend by not using a coupon or special offer.

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