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Millions learn the art of coupon clicking

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Twenty percent off, $15 off your next purchase of $75 or more, buy 10 bagels, get a free pound of coffee!

Anyone with a mailbox probably has received countless coupon offers like these. But for online shoppers, an e-mail in-box doesn't necessarily provide the same perks and privileges.

Internet merchants offering coupon deals often sport a space on their online order forms to enter promotional codes. But to obtain this special sequence of numbers, consumers must often register at the site, providing personal information.

But a growing trend in online retailing is clearing the hurdles to hot deals, in the form of websites that specialize in coupon codes. These websites collect offers from thousands of retailers, presenting them as a one-stop shop for bargain hunters.

Coupon-code sites attracted almost 167 million unique users last month, according to comScore Networks, an Internet research firm in Chicago.

A lot of consumers get very attached to shopping this way, says Christian Gordun, founder of CouponCraze.com, a site that contains about 1,000 deals. "They won't even make a purchase unless they get a coupon."

A wide range of deals

Though some sites focus on specific areas, online shoppers can find coupons for everything from computers to cauliflower.

Convenience and variety draw people to coupon sites, says Kurt Lohse, founder of Keycode.com, a site that specializes in promotional codes. "It's hard for a shopper to go out to 10 or 15 of their favorite retailer sites when they have a need for a new outfit, but if you check our site, you can see them all at once," he claims.

The ease of comparison- shopping depends in large part on the navigability of these sites. Some are cluttered with ads, making it difficult to distinguish between them and discount offers. Worse, some coupon sites let anyone post offers, without any form of verification.

Elements of fraud
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