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Rochester, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. has stopped accepting computer-generated coupons because of fraud concerns. "In recent months, this problem has surfaced and grown rapidly across the country," said Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale.
Natale declined to disclose how much the grocery retailer has lost because of Internet coupon fraud, but she said a large number of fraudulent coupons worth up to $10 in value have surfaced recently.
Tops Friendly Markets has been monitoring the coupon fraud situation but will accept all legitimate coupons -- including computer-generated ones, spokeswoman Stefanie Zakowicz said.
"We are evaluating the situation, and we may have a change in policy in the near future," Zakowicz said.
However, Tops' convenience stores -- Sugar Creek and Wilson Farms -- stopped accepting Internet coupons as of Aug. 21, she said.
Tops operates 19 supermarkets in Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, and Ontario counties. Wegmans operates 26 supermarkets in the four counties.
Some of the bogus coupons that have surfaced on the Internet are for free laundry detergent, free dog food, and free sodas.
The coupons are made to look like the real thing, with UPC codes and pictures, said Michael Sansolo, s.v.p. of Food Marketing Institute in Washington, D.C.
Fraudulent coupons are a significant problem for the industry. They have so far cost food retailers millions of dollars, he said. Much like an Internet virus, fraudulent coupons spread quickly, Sansolo noted. The coupons weren't a large problem for supermarkets in July but became a big headache in August.