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BT is taking action against rogue dialler companies which defraud consumers by secretly changing their computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number.

Diallers are used by websites selling expensive content - usually pornographic. To access the site, browsers must first install software which changes computer settings so the website is accesssed via a premium rate phone line. This isn't a problem - so long as the software properly tells the consumer what is going on But many diallers give no warnings and users can quickly run up huge phone bills. An estimated 19,000 BT customers have been stung by rogue diallers, and the problem is growing.

BT will block access to any premium number it believes is being used by "rogue dial-ups". It will do this straight away, rather than wait for regulators to take action.

Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS), the regulater of premium rate services, is supporting BT's action. Rogue diallers represented 43 per cent of Internet-related premium rate complaints received by ICSTIS in 2002; by 2003 this had risen to 70 per cent.

BT will also offer subscribers a free block on calling premium lines. A removable block on your line will cost £1.75 a month.

The telco said it would not make any money out of rogue dialling software. Although the bulk of charges go to the service provider, BT will donate its percentage of charges to the charity ChildLine.

BT will also do more to warn customers about the problem. ®

Related stories

MPs slam premium-rate 'criminal scams'
ICSTIS blames dialler scams for premium rate freeze
Rogue diallers now use satellite

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