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Avoid scams on Internet coupons

Internet coupons are essential for every shopper looking to squeeze every dime out of their purchases. Coupled with paper coupons and stacked on top of weekly sales, they'll save you a fortune.

But Internet coupons are also risky.

For every legitimate coupon in cyber-space, there are dozens of counterfeit ones that aren't worth their pixels.

Donna Montaldo manages the coupon and bargains page of the consumer advice site About.com. She shared these suggestions for "clipping" real Internet coupons with consumer resource magazine Bottom Line Secrets:

* VISIT LEGITIMATE COUPON SITES. Of course, About.com's coupon page (click the link above) is one. So is TheGroceryGame.com, which requires a subscription.

* VISIT PRODUCT MANUFACTURER SITES. Surf the sites of the companies which make your favorite products. Look for tabs like Deals, Promotions, Coupons or Savings. That's where you'll find the manufacturers' exclusive web coupons.

* GOOGLE THE PRODUCT'S NAME WITH THE WORD "COUPON." Bingo! You just might find a real web coupon for that product.

* KNOW THE TYPES OF INTERNET COUPONS. There are coupon codes, where you jot down the code, then type it into the site to redeem it. Link promotions on legitimate sites prompt you to click a link to reach a secure page where you make the discounted purchase. Printable Internet coupons are the ones you simply print right off the manufacturer's site or coupon site.

A word of warning -- even legitimate coupon sites may ask you to download software in order to score the coupons. Be careful! Sometimes that software is spyware, designed to follow how and what you shop.

Look for the site's privacy policy or contact the folks behind the site before you commit.

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