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Police in Hamburg this week arrested two suspects in an Internet dialler scam, which may have swindled 170,000 Internet users into paying €2.5m or more.

The two con merchants, operating under names such as Hanseatische Abrechnungssysteme, Digital Web Limited, Nesa-Inkasso, Euroline Deutschland and NewBiz Medi, operated a cunning scheme to circumvent dialler regulation laws.

German dialler services currently have to register with German regulatory authorities and commit to clean services. German dialler vendors used to install trojans on users' PCs and rack up punters' phone bills. Under the new regulation, introduced last year, consumers no longer have to pay bills if the dialler companies don't stick to the rules. More importantly, there is a cap on prices of a couple of euros per minute.

The Hamburg scammers would lure Internet users to certain websites and secretly install an app which dialled out to expensive premium numbers. The scammers would then look up the postal address of their victims in the phone directory and deliver a package to their door, telling them that the address was incorrect, and would they please sign for delivery.

That signature was then used to fabricate a bogus invoice, which stated that the victims had used an online (porn) service for which they needed to pay. When victims refused, the company would immediately send round a debt collecting agency.

In the past six months the Staatsanwaltschaft (district public prosecution authority) in Hamburg received 1,500 complaints over these scams, the Hamburger Morgenpost reports. ®

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