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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Action call on premium rate fraud
Software that can make computers dial premium rate numbers without their owner's knowledge should be banned, an MP has told BBC News Online.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, has called on the Department of Trade and Industry to take action over this fraud.

His call follows a number of reports across the region of people facing huge phone bills because of this scam. Mr Lamb said he has also called on BT to help stop the fraud continuing.

A sample of phone scam cases reported to the BBC
A man from March, Cambs, said his latest bill included two calls to a Pacific island totalling 38 which he had not made
A woman from Northants had bills for nearly 200 for connecting up to the internet when she was not using the phone line
A woman from Hitchin received a bill for 15 for premium rate called she never made

Mr Lamb, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said: "Thousands of Internet users are being affected by this latest Internet scam.

"The industry and Government must urgently tackle these 'Premium Rate Diallers' that worm their way into people's computers without their knowledge or authorisation.

"It is a criminal offence and the criminals should be tracked down and prosecuted."

Last month police started looking into complaints about excessive phone bills, allegedly caused by PC software that secretly dials up premium rate numbers.

Diallers secretly installed

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was approached by the premium rate watchdog, Icstis, following a rise in complaints of net-related phone fraud.

"We are in discussions with them," an Icstis spokesman told BBC News Online.

Programs called diallers can secretly install themselves and automatically connect to premium rate lines.

In one case in North Walsham internet hackers programmed retired head teacher Edward Barber's computer to dial up premium rate lines at a cost of 800.

In another case Bob Church, a pensioner from Felixstowe in Suffolk who normally receives a modest phone bill, received a bill for more than 800 - thanks to a whole stream of premium rate numbers he says he never dialled.

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