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Money-off coupons, which deliver annual savings worth £500million a year to shoppers, could be scrapped amid an explosion in fraud.
Brands that distribute the vouchers to boost sales are facing huge holes in their finances because of the surge in scams.
A Daily Mail investigation has found that criminals are manipulating the bar codes on vouchers to give much bigger savings on their final shopping bill.
And there has been a huge rise in the number of staff and customers recycling coupons thousands of times. Worryingly, some supermarkets appear to be turning a blind eye to the scams.
There has always been some abuse of the voucher system. Customers might use one even if they have not bought the item it is linked to, and in the past staff have gone through piles of old papers to cut them out.
However, one industry insider said: 'What we have seen in recent weeks is much bigger than that.
'It appears, in three cases at least, to involve what could potentially be serious fraud and/or money laundering. It is getting so bad that brands may decide to kill off the vouchers.'
In one case, a multi-national firm was cheated out of £80,000 when a £2 food-product voucher emailed to a mailing list was redeemed 50,000 times - despite only 8,000 being printed off.
More than 90 per cent were redeemed through one supermarket chain, with 10,000 claimed through one of its stores.
In a second case, a start-up company in the food and drink sector was hit with a bill in excess of £40,000 after a money-off coupon was massively over-redeemed.
In a third case, a consumer goods company was hit for more than £150,000 because someone had faked a money-off coupon and replaced a barcode worth 30p with one worth around £6.
The brands have asked to remain anonymous amid fears supermarkets will remove them from shelves.
Annie Swift, of the Institute of Sales Promotion, said she was aware of the type of problems highlighted by the Mail probe.
She said: 'Some major retailers are acting in a way that is irresponsible and possibly criminal by encouraging people to redeem huge numbers of coupons for products they haven't bought.
'Our members have reported a massive surge in coupon misuse.
'With coupons, consumers save money, companies promote brands in a cost-effective and targeted way and shops sell more. If companies stop issuing these coupons because of potentially criminal activities, it's consumers who will suffer.'