Net users warned on calling scam
Source: THE AGE
Date: December 17, 2003
Australian dial-up internet users have been warned of an international scam fleecing web surfers of thousands of dollars in call charges.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) issued a warning on internet dumping, a practice that disconnects internet users from their local service provider and reconnects them to an overseas provider at a much higher rate.
The ombudsman received 731 complaints from customers in the period from October to mid December, disputing charges for international direct dialling data calls.
In some cases customers faced a charge of up to $3,500 for a single call.
TIO spokeswoman Rebecca Fredericks said the disputed calls could be explained by the practice of internet dumping.
She said internet dumping worked by reconnecting dial-up web users to international service providers when they visited certain sites, particularly pornographic sites.
In some cases a warning appeared advising that viewing the site would incur a $5 per minute fee charged to the user's telephone account, Ms Fredericks said.
"In the majority of cases, where the services originate from overseas because they are out of Australian jurisdiction they don't have to comply with Australian laws, there will be no warning," she said.
She said many of the calls originated from small or Pacific nations like Cook Islands, Moldova, Diego Garcia, Guyana and Lichtenstein.
Internet content providers who reaped profits from the scam chose these countries because of laws that allowed their telecommunications companies to charge a fee at the place the call was terminated.
"What's happening is these content providers go to the telecom companies that have been set up in these small countries and say they will multiply calls terminating in the country if they share the profit," Ms Fredericks said.
"Many times people don't even know what's happened. They just get their telephone bill and see charges for calls to Diego Garcia."
She said some customers had reported being charged for calls made when they were not even home.
"This software can actually get the modem to redial that international number at a set interval," Ms Fredericks said.
The ombudsman has advised dial-up internet users to ask their telephone company to bar access to international numbers.
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