British Gas warns punters about rogue diallers

Let's be careful out there

British Gas is writing to all of its 400,000 telephone customers warning them about rogue dialler scams that hijack their computers and run up huge phone bills.

The leaflets are being sent to British Gas's home phone customers with advice on what premium rate numbers are, how to spot them on bills and how to complain to the industry watchdog, ICSTIS, if there's a problem.

Said Richard Stasyszyn from British Gas: "Most premium rate numbers are legitimate and bring customers all sorts of services and information through phones, fax, computers or interactive TV. From advice and voting lines - like for Big Brother - to competitions, horoscopes, chat lines and business information, these calls can cost anything from 10p to £1.50 per minute.

"But some companies are bringing premium rate calls into disrepute. Where customers aren't aware that by clicking on some internet links they're changing their dial-up number, they can run up huge telephone bills without realising it. Again, there are many legitimate companies which offer services in this way and recover their costs through premium rate lines, but customers need to be vigilant to avoid being faced with huge bills."

Two weeks ago, communications regulator Ofcom announced plans to crack down on premium-rate phone thieves who rip off punters by installing software on their PCs that then rack up costly phone calls. The communications regulator's decision to beef up protection for consumers follows a surge in complaints from punters who've been tricked into connecting to dodgy premium-rate services.

Announcing the consultation into the £1bn-a-year industry that will be carried out during August and September, Ofcom said it would examine options to strengthen the powers of ICSTIS - the industry-funded regulatory body for all premium rate services - as well as "any other actions necessary". ®

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