Porn sites charged with billing for free pics

Hairy-palmed punters gave out credit card details

Dozens of porn sites have been hit with a lawsuit claiming they have been billing punters for eyeing images that were offered for free.

The sites named in the suit include Playgirl.com and Highsociety.com. The Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general filed the lawsuit yesterday. FTC director Steven Baker rated it as one of the 'biggest Internet scams I've ever seen.'

The customers have been getting billed because they give up their credit card details to take a free tour around the X-rated sites. Like many porn sites and e-commerce sites, Playgirl.com and Highsociety.com require credit card details as proof visitors are over 18. You have to enter your card details even if you're just after a free thrill.

The complaint states people have been charged between $20 and $90 a month in membership fees after visiting the sites. In some cases they have had to cancel cards just to stop the payments. The suit also claims that the company behind the sites, Crescent Publishing Group, rarely gives out phone numbers so punters found it difficult to call and challenge the charges.

Reuters reports that the suit states the 'free tour' Web sites took $141 million in revenue during the first 10 months of 1999. ®

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