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Network operators have been warned they might be committing offences if they continue to do business with premium rate service (PRS) operators suspected of ripping off punters.

The warning came as officers from the City of London Police Economic Crime Department (COLP ECD) met with network operators at the offices of regulator ICSTIS earlier this month. The operators called for a meeting because of ongoing pressure on the industry to clean up its act.

Research published last month by consumer group Which? found that premium rate phone scams that promise punters non existent prizes are the UK's number one con, with 2m adults admitting they've been duped into calling a premium rate phone line charged at up to £1.50 a minute to try and claim a non-existent "prize".

Recognising current penalties aren't doing enough to prevent fraudsters from setting up rogue lines, ICSTIS has recently increased the maximum fine for offenders from £100,000 to £250,000.

It is against this backdrop that network operators - telcos that lease premium rate service (PRS) numbers to the outfit providing the end service - requested a meeting with police to help them identify telltale signs of criminal activity. The operators were told they had to be more responsible regarding the PRS outfits that use their services.

They were reminded that turning a blind eye, or taking money generated as a result of criminal activity, when they knew or suspected it was criminal, could result in them committing an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The operators were also told if they suspected a PRS operator was ripping off end users, they should inform the regulator. ®

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