£1,000 bills in dial-up net scam

 
Thousands of BT’s home internet users are targeted every day by a scam which adds an average of £100 to their phone bills, BT said yesterday.

 
Thousands of BT’s home internet users are targeted every day by a scam which adds an average of £100 to their phone bills, BT said yesterday.
 
The firm has had more than 80,000 customers complaining that their computers had been linked to premium rate or international numbers without their consent, a total cost to UK consumers of £8m so far. So-called “rogue-dialling” works by a small programme delivered over the net diverting a computer’s dial-up number to a premium rate number or expensive overseas number.
 
The first time a user finds out is when they see the number and charges on their bill – for which they are legally liable. The average hit has been £100, but some have had to pay up to £1,000.
 
BT has a free software package which alerts customers when calls to suspicious numbers are made from their line, and up to 2,000 people have been downloading it every day. Since its launch on May 3, the software has alerted an average of 304 BT account holders a day. The BT Privacy Online programme sends a text message or voicemail when a call is made to a suspect destination, such as Tuvalu or Sao Tome, or if the bill rises sharply.
 
BT said that it could not prevent calls to premium numbers, because “99.9% of such numbers are legitimate” and each of the 80,000 cases would have to be investigated individually. Where it has taken action to block numbers, it has run the risk of being sued by legitimate companies.
 
A BT spokesman said that as well as the download, the company offered paid-for call-barring; customers have to enter an identification number before dialling, so rogue diallers are unable to function. “We’re doing all we can,” he said.