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Amazing Holiday Offers Come at a Price 28 August 2003

The Isle of Man is being targeted with phone calls offering cheap or free holiday deals but the Island's Office of Fair Trading warns people to be wary.

The Office of Fair Trading has received several enquiries from people concerned at receiving unsolicited telephone calls from American companies selling bargain holidays to Florida or similar destinations. Typically the caller says that you've won a holiday as the prize in a competition, although you may have to pay for some part of it such as flights, and then asks for your credit card details. The caller may be reluctant to give full details of the offer in writing or to allow you time to consider it before you give them your credit card details. The Office of Fair Trading advises that you should be extremely wary of pushy sales tactics and you should never enter into a contract if you haven't been given all the details of what you are getting for your money.

Sophie Watkins, Head of Operations at the Office of Fair Trading, says 'There is always the chance that this kind of offer may be a scam but even if the company making the call does turn out to be genuine, watch out for nasty surprises later as it can emerge that what you have paid is only a small part of the holiday package and there are still major payments to be made. While the holiday is promoted as a very special offer, it is possible that you could get a similar or better deal from local travel agents so you should shop around before committing.'

Tips to Avoid Losing Your Money

If a company claims you have won a prize of any sort, ask how you have entered the competition. If you do not remember entering a competition with a holiday prize, the likelihood is that you are not a winner.

Be extremely sceptical of unsolicited phone offers of any type. You should initiate the call so that you are sure of who you are talking to.

Ask for complete details of the offer, including any terms and conditions, in writing prior to payment. These should include the total price; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about the components of the package.

Never give out your credit card number or other financial details unless you are confident that the company or individual is legitimate. If you are unsure contact the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading on 686500 for advice.

Shop around and compare special offers with what is available elsewhere Walk away from high pressure sales tactics which do not allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose personal information, such as your income.

Check details of telephone call costs before phoning prize hotlines as calls to premium rate numbers can be pricey. If you suspect a company is conning you over the call charges contact the premium rate phone regulator Icstis on 0800 500212.

For more information contact the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading on 686500 for a free leaflet on how to protect yourself against scams.

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