Australian Web surfers sapped by con-man

Tricked into paying for free Net access

Be careful, be very careful who you buy Internet access from. Especially if you live in Australia.

The Australian Federal Police have begun investigating an enterprising crook who has allegedly been hoodwinking unwary punters into coughing up AU$150 for access to ISP GlobalFreeway's service. Which is... er... free, paid for by advertising and its premium rate technical helpline.

The trickster, who has been operating under the company name Free Internet Forever (FIF), appears to have signed up his 'customers', most of them pensioners and new users, for GlobalFreeway's gratis dial-up product and then billed them for tech support.

GlobalFreeway, a company backed by Ericsson and GlobalOne, appears to have no connection whatsoever with FIF. Indeed, its Web site says: "We do not ask for credit card details and will never send you a bill." FIF, on the other hand, did ask for credit card numbers, and happily swiped AU$150 from customers' accounts.

At least 100 people paid that fee. That's the number of complaints Australia's telecoms grievances investigator has received about FIF.

"Some [FIF customers] weren't able to access the Internet at all. There were other cases in which the customer couldn't contact [FIF] as the phone number kept changing. There was no service and back-up support as promised," a spokesperson for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman said, cited by ZDNet Australia.

GlobalFreeway reiterated that it is a completely free service. If anyone is asked to pay for its software or for installation of said, the ISP would like to hear about it by email or phone (13 43 43). ®

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