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BT to block rogue diallers - again

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BT is trying yet again to crack down on rogue diallers by introducing new software that will stop computers from dialling premium rate numbers. It's commissioned a small UK-based independent software company to develop a system to prevent PCs from dialling expensive numbers.

Although BT won't reveal the name of the company, the UK phone giant says trials of the Modem Protection software in Northern Ireland have proved successful. Now it intends to make the software available for free to all of its punters by May - regardless of which ISP they use.

BT Modem Protection will block PCs from dialling costly premium rate or international numbers - even if rogue dialler software is installed on machines. Punters will also be warned if their modem begins to dial any number other than a list of approved numbers, such as those used by their ISP. Another idea BT has up its sleeve is to notify punters if it spots spikes in phone charges that could signify that they're the target of phone fraud.

BT reckons today's announcement is part of a "co-ordinated two-pronged approach" to help alert punters to scammers who try to rip-off consumers.

Of course, this isn't the first time the monster telco has tried to respond to the issue of rogue diallers - software that secretly changes computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number.

In June last year BT began blocking UK-based premium rate numbers suspected of being used by rogue dialler companies to defraud consumers out of hundreds of pounds. But BT was forced to drop the scheme after it was sued by Birmingham-based Opera Telecom seeking compensation for lost revenues.

BT is confident that its Modem Protection software will not land the telco in legal hot water because it's the consumer who decides to block numbers - not BT.

Even so, there are those who believe BT should do more to protect phone users from being ripped off - and should be made to pay.

Last December Manchester law firm, Davis Blank Furniss set up a company, Dial Up Fraud Ltd, to launch a legal challenge against BT on behalf of internet users stung by rogue diallers.

The law firm is currently trying to recruit 2,500 punters who are prepared to cough up £60 to a legal fighting fund that will be used to challenge BT and seek compensation for those hit by rogue diallers.

Said commercial lawyer Stuart Shalom: "BT is currently refusing to cover the cost and compensate its customers who have fallen prey to this scam, it means that they are liable to pay out hundreds of pounds for calls they have not made. This is grossly unfair and we want to get BT to accept that its customers should not have to pay for all those unwanted calls."

A BT spokesman told The Register: "We don't think they've got grounds for a case." ®

Related stories

BT rogue dialler court case delayed
BT sued for blocking suspected 'rogue dialler' numbers
New 0871 rogue dialler scam spotted
Citizens Advice warns of 'shocking' rogue dialler scams
BT abandons scheme to block rogue diallers

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