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FTC warns of coupon scams

The Federal Trade Commission is warning Internet users to be aware of alleged scams circulating the Net involving coupons.

Netizens, beware: New scams are circulating on the Web.

The Federal Trade Commission, working in conjunction with the nonprofit Coupon Information Center (CIC), is warning Internet users to be aware of two types of so-called business opportunities involving coupons.

Fraudulent promoters are promising hundreds of dollars or more per week to Netizens who sell coupon booklets to other consumers. According to Bonnie Janson, spokesman for the FTC, it's not the validity of the coupons that is being called into question; it's the promised profits.

"They are very difficult to sell. You can't make the kind of earnings that they promise that you can make," she said.

In another popular scheme, Web sites promise profits to those who clip coupons out of newspapers and magazines and send them in. Again, Janson said, "they're making false claims about earnings."

The coupon operations came to the FTC's attention during a recent agency-sponsored "surf day." On these days, the FTC combs the Internet for certain types of consumer fraud. In addition to such specific areas as coupon schemes, the agency spends a great deal of time ferreting out credit-repair scams, fraudulent business opportunities, and pyramid schemes on the Net.

The commission has brought more than two dozen cases challenging Internet advertising.

The Internet is an especially conducive environment for con artists. "It is easy to make a Web site look pretty professional," Janson noted.

The FTC advises common sense when trying to detect fraudulent offers.

"If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," Janson said. "Use the same type of skepticism evaluating a Web site as you would offline."