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Don't Let Customers Tamper You With Coupons

Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned web forum for healthy discussion and tips that you can apply to your own business. Browsing through our own WebProWorld forum, I noticed an interesting conversation taking place regarding online coupons, and the potential for customers to tamper with them.

WPW member MarkGatESS began the discussion, “I’m interested in making online coupons that people can click on, be directed to a page, image file, or .pdf, and then print a copy of the coupon to use to send in with product repairs (for our repair service department). How can I secure this coupon so that people can’t tamper with wording or an expiration date and be able to rip us off?”

A WebProWorld veteran, who goes by the name Uncle Dog said that it’s simply not possible to make a tamper-resistant coupon in the way MarkGatESS suggests, because anything displayed on a monitor can easily be copied into other graphics software, where it can then be altered. He says the solution is this: “Each coupon needs to have its own unique ID that can then be checked against and cleared off a database.”

This way makes sense, and it shouldn’t be incredibly hard to do. Another WPW veteran, Danlefree, has an alternative strategy though. He runs down the following steps:

– Compute the full contents (except the coupon code) of the coupon

– Include the following items of information on the coupon: visitor IP address, visitor e-mail address (so you can e-mail them to follow up, if necessary), date

– Generate the coupon code as an MD5 sum (or, better still, the first 8 characters of an MD5 sum) of the following items of information: The entirety of the printed coupon’s HTML contents + a secret salt

– Provide a tool for your representatives which allows them to enter the IP address, e-mail address, and date from a coupon to generate a hash – if the hash matches, the coupon was valid (otherwise it’s a forgery)

Online coupon use has steadily grown throughout the recession, and this was especially evident during the holiday season. Even as things look up and the holidays are behind us, people will still be looking to save money. That will never change.

Coupons can be a great way to drive business, but it pays to be smart about it. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that people can be quite deceptive and may jump at an opportunity to rip you off. Hopefully that’s not the majority of your customers, but let’s face it. Not everybody is honest.

Join the conversation in the comments on this article, or right in the forum.

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.