Don't fall for fake coupons and deals

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The coupon craze is spreading like wild fire. It can be a great way to save money, but experts warn not every coupon site is legitimate and not every coupon is real. We talked to a local coupon expert about some important things to keep in mind when you're looking for that next great bargain.

Blogger, Alison Brown, with Richmond knows how to find a good deal -- she's started couponing seriously in 2006.

"Once you get into it, it is something you want to share with other people, it's compulsive," Brown said.

Her website specializes in finding great bargains in the Richmond area.

"Couponing is what you make of it. It can be extremely simple, it can be extremely time consuming and complicated. You watch Extreme Couponing and it's a full time job for them," she said.

Brown says while it can be fun, you have to be careful. Look out for fake coupons and phishing scams designed to collect your personal information. Her first piece of advice - stick with reputable websites, start with the big names like

"Once you venture outside of that you have to be really careful, usually if it sounds to good to be true, think twice and then Google it," Brown explained.

She says although sites like Craigslist have warnings about scams, you still need to use caution. If you're not careful, you could end up with an in-box full of spam and potential phishing scams.

"I would not advise it no. Flat out, I don't think that is going to be the place to find coupons," said Brown.

She works hard to make sure deals on her site are legit.

"I try to be really careful in whatever deals I post and if there is any question in my mind about it, first I will try to use it myself and if there is any doubt then I just won't pass it along," she added.

If you're new to this coupon craze there are sites that can help protect you. One is the Coupon Information Corporation. It educates consumers about couponing and has a list of known counterfeits that may be circulating. Brown says don't let a good deal prevent you from spotting the red flags.

"If people are buying or selling coupons, that is a red flag. You shouldn't be purchasing coupons, that is not what they are intended for. Another red flag is if it is a free item and no purchase is required," she tells us.

If you are just getting started and have questions -- Browns says find a coupon blogger you trust.

Another tip -- set up a spam email account so your personal email is not flooded with unwanted mail. Below are some helpful links and websites.

Popular printable coupon websites include:

Brown Recommends the coupon blogs below:

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.