One look at at his T-Online bill and Patrick S, a businessman from Straubing, Bavaria, almost suffered a stroke. The telco was charging him a total of 9,000 deutschmarks (£1,800).
"I immediately wrote to the telecom company in protest. Usually my bills amount to roughly 300 deutschmarks a month," the victim explains to ZDNet. Around three weeks later Germanys largest Internet provider told him the case had been looked into, and that nothing unusual had been found.
When the second bill of 15,000 deutschmarks (£4,629) arrived, the angry customer became even more suspicious and turned to the police.
T-Online notified Patrick S in writing that the total sum of approximately 25,000 deutschmarks had not been paid. His T-Online account was blocked and business ISDN line was cut off. "It was only once I filed an official complaint at the Regensburg District Court that the telecom company reconnected the two lines," he says.
Meanwhile, the Straubing police department discovered that that someone had managed to get hold of his private account information. This data was probably retrieved via a email integrated backdoor-virus named "Sub-Seven".
"The suspect must have then spread this information over the Internet. We have now tracked down 85 users within the country who use the same account," explained Klaus Pickel, spokesman for the Straubing police department. Pickel advised Internet surfers to install a anti-virus programme to control emails and to change all passwords on a regular basis.
A straightfoward calculation shows that T-Online customers using the T-Online Eco tariff can accumulate a monthly bill of 1,300 deutschmarks if they stay online all the time.
"It is however possible for more than one user to access the Internet simultaneously using the same T-Online account. This makes it possible for the businessman in his hotel room to go online using the same account as his wife using it from home," explains Deutsche Telekom spokesman Walter Genz. T-Online was unable to comment by press time.
Take me to the Unmetered Access Special