Phone fraud crackdown cuts off 13 countries

The block of the Irish

The block of the Irish

In an effort to stop internet dialler scams - where unwitting surfers are put onto premium rate connections by software uknowingly installed on their machines - Ireland is going to block calls to 13 countries.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has blacklisted a number of countries, mostly located in the South Pacific, which are well known for harbouring the dialler scammers.

The dialler scam came to prominence earlier this year when premium rate regulator Icstis published figures showing the number of victims of the rogue diallers - which are often only discovered when users are landed with huge phone bills - had increased dramatically and the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was called in to investigate.

BT subsequently decided to block a series of premium rate numbers often used by the scammers but ComReg has decided to go one step further.

ComReg chairman John Doherty said in the foreword to his report that the Commission had been forced to take more extreme measures after it failed to find a solution in collaboration with the telecoms industry.

"ComReg has continually sought for the industry to come forward with robust solutions, which ensure the protection of consumers. Regretfully it has not been possible to arrive at what we consider to be an appropriate solution and therefore... ComReg is forced to take some unusual and exceptional measures," he said.

For the moment, the direct dials to the 13 countries with another on the 'possible', which include Sao Tome and the Cook Islands, will be banned but numbers can be white-listed individually as long as they are a voice-only number. Telcos can opt out of banning the calls but will then have to cover the bills of any dialler victims.

ISPs will also be obliged to let their users know about the dialler scam and how to protect themselves against it.

The 13 blocked countries are Comoros, Cook Islands, Diego Garcia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Mauritania, Nauru, Norfolk Island, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and Wallis and Futuna. Papua New Guinea is under consideration.