This vacuum cleaner scam will cost you

Vacuum cleanerVacuum cleaning my home is not my idea of a fun. It's a view I'm sure I share with most people. But it is a chore which has to be done.

And vacuum cleaners are hardly exciting. There has been just one significant technological advance in the past 80 years – the advent of the Dyson bagless cleaner, which came to the UK exactly 20 years ago. Since then, there have been just small improvements.
Most machines are incredibly reliable, and can last for decades. So we rarely buy new ones and we never discuss them with our friends in the way we might talk about the merits of Apple against Android on our latest handheld device.

They are distress purchases – we buy them because we have to, not because we enjoy shopping for them. So given this background of durability and lack of innovation, why does anyone send me an email headed "Tony Test and keep a new Vax vacuum"?

Rewarded for your review
The email sender said my opinion was needed and I would be rewarded for it – I could keep the machine if I was selected and used the product for seven days, following that with a "thorough written review".

I am confused. All vacuum cleaners are thoroughly tested by manufacturers and by independent organisations such as Which? They examine how machines pick up various forms of dirt on different surfaces; they work out how portable a model might be; and they test motors and switches by clicking them on and off thousands of times.

Whereas individuals will probably only use their cleaner once or twice a week. And what am I supposed to write about my experience? That it worked? Or do I undertake a PhD thesis?

The particular model is hard to identity from the description and photo, but something similar retails around £140, making it one of the more expensive cleaners on the market. You can find an own-brand vacuum at Argos for as little as £19.99.

The email says I can register for free. But as far as the promoters go, that's where they expect "free" to end. I enter my email address and then I am directed to a page where I can answer a basic question such as "Who makes the Dyson cleaner – Dyson or Hoover" or, for a similar chance to "test" an Iphone, it's "who makes it – Apple or Samsung". There is also the same sort of thing for a MacBook.

Here comes the cost...
I have to click OK to accept the terms and conditions and enter a valid mobile phone number. That number is not, as you might think, so I can be contacted day and night on my vacuuming views, but – and this is in the small print – so I can be billed on my phone. It says: "Service costs £3 per question played and a £4.50 sign up fee. You will receive an additional £1.50 charge for a reminder message tomorrow."

I do not give my mobile number.

I do not want to pay a maximum £9.00 to be in with a chance of winning something that I don't really need or want and hardly costs a fortune.

What are my chances of winning? I have no idea. I don't know how many cleaners are on offer, let alone how many entrants there are. There is a computerised draw once a month.

So as soon as you enter your phone number, you are paying big money – unless you read the small print first. The promoters of this scheme obviously hope you just tick to say you have read everything, but do not work your way through the small print; which is what we mostly do.

Hidden free entry
These lottery schemes have to offer a form of no-cost entry. It is buried in the terms and conditions – you can send a free email to the promoters with your details, which I did not bother to do as I get enough of these messages anyway. Registration on the website is hidden behind a proxy service.

The website small print makes it clear that it has no connection whatsoever with any of the manufacturers (or importers or retailers) of the products on offer for "testing". So the manufacturers, that you would think they would want to be the first to know test results and problems, are totally out of this loop. As far as they are concerned, someone has bought one of their cleaners and is trying to sell it in a way and for a price far from the accepted high street model.

Don't fall for this one.

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This vacuum cleaner scam will cost you

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the

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