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CONSUMER ALERT: AIRLINE TICKET OFFER MAY TAKE CONSUMERS NOWHERE

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas residents promised free airline tickets on "US Airlines" shouldn't start packing their bags just yet.

That's because US Airlines doesn't exist. And, the tickets offered, if they exist at all, are not free as promised by a direct mail offer that has landed in Arkansas consumers' mailboxes in recent weeks.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's Consumer Protection Division has received a large number of inquiries about this suspicious solicitation. So, today McDaniel issued this Consumer Alert to warn Arkansans not to share their sensitive personal and financial information in hopes of winning airline tickets, and to be wary of offers of free products that might end up costing them more than the product is worth.

The mailers received by Arkansas consumers purport to be from US Airlines and state that the recipient has "qualified for an award of two roundtrip airline tickets." Though it has a similar name to US Airways, the supposed company is in no way affiliated with that or other major airlines.

The mailer states that consumers must call a toll-free number as soon as possible in order to claim their prize. If consumers call the number, they are asked schedule a "tour" of the company's local travel agency showroom, where they can pick up the promised free tickets. To get the tickets, the consumer must agree to be subjected to a sales pitch for the company's travel products and agree to pay undisclosed "taxes and fees" for the tickets. The "taxes and fees" can run to more than $100 per ticket.

The company is not local and does not have a showroom. It is a temporary setup operating out of a local hotel.

The Attorney General's Office has no reports thus far of Arkansas consumers falling for the scheme.

"We are encouraged by the fact that consumers see this clearly for what it is and refuse to believe that airline tickets await them from an airline that doesn't exist," McDaniel said. "Even if the company does provide ticket vouchers, any prize that requires a consumer to subject himself to a high-pressure sales promotion and pay taxes and 'fees' is anything but free."

As with any sweepstakes or contest, McDaniel reminded consumers to avoid disclosing their credit card or checking account numbers over the phone to callers who claim they are offering a prize. Also, be wary of sharing information without first knowing a contact number or address by which to request removal from a mailing list.

For more information, or to learn more ways to avoid scams, visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division website at www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.

Consumers who have received the solicitation from "US Airlines" are encouraged to call the Consumer Protection Division's hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341.

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