BT has blocked access to 1,000 rogue internet dialler numbers as part of increased efforts to stop people falling victim to premium-rate call scams that lead to surfers unwittingly running up huge telephone bills.
Thousands of BT narrowband customers have already been tricked into downloading the dial-up software, often when trying to access pay-per-view websites. These rogue diallers then connect the user to the internet via a premium-rate telephone line.
The unwitting user thinks they are still connected via their usual internet connection but in fact they are racking up massive bills on lines charging £1.50 a minute.
BT said it has now dealt with 45,000 cases where customers have been victims of the premium-rate connection scam, while another 9,500 are still waiting to be resolved.
Another warning to 1.8 million BT retail narrowband customers will also be sent out by email over the next few weeks advising them how to avoid becoming a victim of the rogue dialler scam.
BT said it only makes 3p a minute on the premium-rate calls, which it has promised to donate to the charity Childline.
Gavin Patterson, group managing director of consumer and ventures at BT, said in a statement that BT is blocking suspected diallers as soon as it is alerted to the problem.
"We have made it clear that we are not the ones profiteering from people’s misfortune. In fact, we will continue to forego our share of the call revenue generated by these disputed calls," he said.
Patterson added that many of the rogue dialler cases are not fraudulent – where the dialler software is installed without their knowledge – but through a lack of awareness.
"In fact, we are seeing that many cases are cleared up when we explain where these charges have come from, which underlines our view that there needs to be greater awareness of how these services operate," he said.
There is, however, no UK-wide initiative by ISPs to tackle the rogue dialler problem and non-BT internet users are at the mercy of their own provider's policy. This is in stark contrast to Ireland, which last week blocked international calls to 13 countries known to harbour the scammers. Irish telcos can opt out of banning the calls but will then have to cover the bills of any dialler victims.