New powers granted to slam rogue diallers

ICSTIS now has more powerful weapons to control premium-rate services, as it tries to protect Web users from fraud

ICSTIS, the organisation that regulates premium-rate telephone services in the UK, has won new powers that it says will help it to clamp down on rogue diallers.

As first reported earlier this week, all premium rate services will now have to seek permission from ICSTIS before they go live. This, the regulator says, will help it to fight criminals who are trying to defraud UK consumers by secretly running dialler software on their computers.

"We're not saying this will be an overnight solution, but it's a big step in the right direction," said Rob Dwight, ICSTIS spokesman, on Friday.

Diallers are pieces of software that are used by Internet companies such as those offering pay-per-view pornography to bill customers for access.

There has recently been a worrying and dramatic surge in the number of people complaining that their phone bills include expensive calls to premium-rate numbers that they say they didn't call. It is thought that many of these people have fallen victim to malicious code that has secretly installed diallers on their PCs without their knowledge and diverted their dial-up connection to a premium rate number.

Now that it has the power to approve all UK premium rate services, ICSTIS says it will be able to nip potential rogue-dialler frauds in the bud, even if the company responsible is based overseas.

However, the regulator cautions that there is more work still to do.

"Others must also play their part. Phone companies have the systems to identify suspicious call patterns and can take action before their customers unknowingly run up huge bills," said ICSTIS Director George Kidd.

"Those networks that give out premium-rate numbers in the first place have a duty to carry out thorough checks on those they give them to and to look at the speed at which they pass money on to them," Kidd added.