Regulator clamps down on rogue dialler cash

UK dial-up users will soon have more protection against rogue diallers hijacking modems

ICSTIS, the body that regulates premium-rate phone services in the UK, is clamping down on criminals targeting dial-up Internet users.

The regulator announced on Thursday that telecoms companies such as BT will no longer be allowed to pass on call revenues to premium-rate service operators until at least 30 days after the call was made.

At present, telecoms companies will typically share revenues with premium rate operators within a couple of days. The new rules will come into force on 15 September.

Rogue diallers are pieces of software that a user unknowingly downloads on to their computer. If the PC has modem connected that can connect to the Internet then the dialler can secretly reroute this connection via a premium-rate telephone number.

Complaints about rogue diallers soared just over a year ago, with dial-up users facing unexpected phone charges of hundreds of pounds. Victims of rogue diallers are often not aware they have been scammed until their next phone bill, which could be up to three months after a suspect call has been made.

ICSTIS says that the 30-day waiting period will protect consumers, and make it much harder for criminals to operate rogue-dialler scams.

"Some people were getting a premium rate number on the Friday, defrauding people on Saturday and Sunday, and then the telephone company would hand over the money to them on Monday," said an ICSTIS spokesman. "That will no longer be able to happen."

ICSTIS now has the power to order a telecoms company to freeze revenues while a particular premium-rate line is investigated, rather than passing it on.