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Ireland Cracks Down on Online Scammers 183

bizpile writes "Ireland has decided to take some extreme measures to crack down on one type of online scam. They have decided to suspend direct dialing to 13 countries (mostly South Pacific Islands) in order to halt the use of auto-dialers. The measure, announced by Ireland's Commission for Communications Regulation, came in response to hundreds of consumer complaints about the scams. ComReg acknowledges that its move is extreme but says that previous efforts to raise awareness of the problem failed to significantly diminish complaints. ComReg will keep the block in place for six months, after which it will be reviewed. All direct-dial calls will initially be blocked, although the regulator is also compiling a "white list" of legitimate numbers that consumers have requested to call."
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Ireland Cracks Down on Online Scammers

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  • by davidoff404 ( 764733 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:13AM (#10327209)
    Does anyone think this approach will ever work. The spammers will just jump ship - or Ireland in this case - to a new base of spam.

    Did you even RTFA? The spammers are using islands in the South Pacific to extract money from phone calls originating in Ireland. Direct-dialling from Ireland to these locations has now been suspended.
  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:15AM (#10327215) Homepage
    Tariffs are paid between phone networks, then call revenues are paid on in the receiving country to the person/entity who owns the line. That person is 'somewhere else', obviously. Chuck a few paper companies in awkward places in the chain and you're stuffed.

    The telcos can't ask their opposite numbers for details, and can't refuse to pay for certain numbers either. So blocking them at root is (a) their only option and (b) a jolly good idea because all the poor buggers like my brother (who got caught for 125gbp just the other day - bloody MS insecure ^&*&^%$) would find their net connection refused and realise that they're being done.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:18AM (#10327229) Homepage
    There is zero legitimate usage to the South Seas islands. They have the distinction of being the most expensive places to call on the planet, with the single exception of calling a ship at sea. I used to work with fraud control of a major carrier, and nobody had ever ONCE seen a legitimate call to one of these places (Vanuatu, Niue Island, etc). It's all scams and phone sex.
  • by Billy69 ( 805214 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:44AM (#10327307)
    It was O2 (and perhaps others as well) who blocked this as there was a fault in the firmware of the most common Philips pay-as-you-go mobile (the one that was handed out free with a student Barclaycard) which meant you could call out for free. So while they fixed the problem by instituting a system at their end, they profiled all their pay-as-you-go calls, and barred calling to the countries bing called for the longest duration.
  • Duh! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:54AM (#10327336)
    No I didnt RTFA, but it says they are banning direct dial calls, so if you want to ring someone in one of those countries, ring the International Operator first and ask to be connected. Duh!
  • by alanxyzzy ( 666696 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:56AM (#10327345)
    Here is The Register's [theregister.co.uk] article on BT blocking specific numbers used by premium rate dialler scammers, and here's BT's web page on the subject [bt.com].

    The UK has a body called ICSTIS [icstis.org.uk] which deals with premium rate (but not expensive overseas) tarrifs.

    Some other links:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/07/01/icstis_ann ual_report/ [theregister.co.uk]
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/28/mps_icstis / [theregister.co.uk]

  • by zoney_ie ( 740061 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:57AM (#10327346)
    Those bunch of muppets Eircom deliberately grouped the specific countries in question as "Pacific Islands" (even including one or two west African countries) in a certain tariff band. They then racked up the prices for this band. As it was merely international rate, not a premium rate (we have 15xx regulated premium nos.) people could not have it blocked.

    My guess is the business that lost 12,000 and others complained to ComReg (the regulatory authority).
  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:28AM (#10327408)
    Why not just ban all premium rate dial up sites. They are just breeding grounds for porn sites and scams. I've yet to see a legitimate use for them. We could do without them.

    If you want to charge for a service get the customer to enter their credit card details / set up an account. If you think they would be unwilling, then that speaks volumes about your business.

    A telco I use the services of operates a premium-rate dialup in order to change the terminating line of their non-geographic numbers.

    Typical charges for using this service are in the range of 30-50 pence, of which the telco probably gets 20-40.

    If they wanted to charge 50 pence on a credit card, they would lose over half of that in transaction processing fees. And if somebody tried to pay with a debit card, they'd lose nearly all of it.

    For some services, particularly very cheap ones that the purchaser will want to use infrequently, a premium rate phone line is the most effective way of charging.
  • by Mant ( 578427 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:32AM (#10327421) Homepage

    Wouldn't simply ensuring you have adequate virus/spyware protection help? This falls under awareness since people download things that do things totally differently than what they wanted.

    I know it is traditional not to read the article, but you could at least read the summary.

    previous efforts to raise awareness of the problem failed to significantly diminish complaints

    They tried rasing awareness. It didn't work. Many, many uses don't have adequate virus/spyware protection, and don't understand about it.

    In extreme cases, you could remove the dialup modem and leave an Ethernet card for Internet access.

    Unless you the dial up modem is what you use to connect to the internet. The Ethernet card is only going to be any use if you connect through a network, or to a cable/ADSL mode, that uses an Ethernet connection.

  • Re:Per usual (Score:2, Informative)

    by csgarvey ( 809231 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:45AM (#10327449)
    Even worse, eircom (the inucmbent, and almost, but not quite monopolistic), created a new tariff band specifically for these destinations, back in 2002.

    Band 13 includes those mentioned in the ComReg directive, and cost a whopping Eur 3.60 per minute (at all times). As a comparison, one reseller charges Eur 1.00 to the same desitnation, and the highest premium rate here is Eur 2.90.

    So its reasonably clear that Band 13 was created to generate more profit for eircom, rather than protect their customer's interests. There are unsubstantiated rumours from "insiders" that eircom were making Eur 1m - Eur 1.5m profit a month.


  • by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:57AM (#10327480) Homepage
    In Germany dialers must be registered with the respective authorities otherwise it's illegal and the scammers are not entitled to collect anything.

    If premium charges are racked up the user must physically type OK into a box before the dialer gets operative. That doesn't help too much if in addition to the dialer a troyan is sneaked into the computer that OK's it in a for the user transparent fashion.

    In this case the number was shut down and the scamee mustn't pay.

    In Switzerland dialers to premium numbers are outright verboten, since this year. Period.

  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:07AM (#10327503)
    Not exactly password protect, but you can ring 150 and ask for "premium rate number barring". From then on, you just can't ring 09xxxxxxxx numbers until you phone up 150 to remove the bar.

    Save yourself a fortune

  • by forgotten_my_nick ( 802929 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:14AM (#10327520)
    I fixed a few machines with dialers on them for friends and family (I am also in Ireland). Some of them had phone bills of over 600 euros to these countries. I am happy they are doing this. It is a long time coming. I also heard about eircom collecting money to pay fraudsters. I am surprised they were allowed do this. The actual document by the way is here.. http://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComR eg0499.pdf Here are submissions from the various telcos. http://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComR eg0499a.zip
  • by forgotten_my_nick ( 802929 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:03AM (#10327662)
    Most of online Irish people use 56k modems. Some of the new adware stuff actually actively attacks protection programs, and/or stops the user from downloading the tools required to repair their machine.

    So I don't think it is all that extreme. If you read the article you will see that a lot of the countries listed don't even have a real population there.
  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by woodhouse ( 625329 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:12AM (#10327704) Homepage
    You're not susceptible to auto-diallers maybe, but with an always on connection, you're a lot more susceptible to viruses generally. Using a router with DSL or cable is a good idea, if only for the hardware firewall.
  • In Denmark (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:44AM (#10327904)
    The phone companies also blocked a number of countries. You can call a toll free number and
    have the block lifted for free. It esentially stopped all the sacamming in one go. Those that need to do buisness with those countries presumably opened their lines shortly after (I presume that this is a very limited number of people), so the commercial impact was minimal, and the benefits maximal.

  • Official Apology (Score:4, Informative)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @09:29AM (#10328216) Homepage Journal
    The following was an email sent to all eircom customers(or at least everyone with a @eircom.net address

    From: service.announcements@eircom.net

    Dear Customer,

    As part of our ongoing commitment to customer service we would like to
    provide you with the following important information on Modem

    Modem Hi-Jacking occurs when a web site you visit purposely disconnects
    you from your Internet Service Provider and reconnects you to the
    Internet through an international or premium rate number, which may
    result in increased call charges.

    Everyone using the Internet should be aware of this risk. It is a
    global issue and is not confined to Ireland. eircom net provides a safe
    surfing guide, which may help you reduce the risk of Modem Hi-Jacking.

    Please be aware that there are also software and hardware solutions
    available, which may reduce the risk of Modem Hi-Jacking. Our safe
    surfing guide provides some examples of these solutions. These are
    purely examples and do not represent an exhaustive list. eircom net is
    not in a position to recommend a particular solution. Customers will
    need to determine which one best suits their particular needs.

    For further advice please visit our safe surfing guide at

    Kind Regards,

    Fintan Lawler

    Managing Director, eircom net

    This mail sounds a lot like eircom covering their own asses to me. They've regularly overcharged the numbers that dialers are calling, at over 3 a minute. I was almost caught by one of these dialer programs myself a few years back.
    I logged off, left the PC to get something to eat, and then a very wierd sound started coming out of the modem. A big dialing +475 5746353735373 or something appeared on the status connection. Got freaked out at the time. Virus scanner couldn't find the dialer, so I had to desperatly altavista for an answer(didn't know about google yet). I fixed the issue but low and behold, the next bill had a big IR£3 charge for the number that the dialer connected to for about 20 seconds.

    This scam has been know for a long time, radio stations are always on about it every few months. Maybe the guy on the inside got caught, because there HAD to be one unless eircom just enjoyed grossly overcharging customers. Oh well. Monopoly is as monopoly does. Still they're giving a free broadband trial now... Hmmm I wonder if I should NO CARRIER
  • Ha ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by elronxenu ( 117773 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @10:47AM (#10329008) Homepage
    It's the telco version of the USENET Death Penalty [stopspam.org] applied to a whole country :-)

    And they called us vigilantes ...!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @01:35PM (#10331023)
    My sister in South Africa was caught with a whopping bill due to this scam. I wrote a long letter to Telkom, who eventually reimbursed part of her bill (but admitted no guilt on their part)

    Interestingly, during my research I came across these links that indicated the diallers are actually developed in Dublin itself.

    Seems like things are going full-circle here - Ireland is cutting lines to countries dialled by software developed in Ireland...
    Shouldn't they start investigating the root cause?

    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,36055,00.ht ml [wired.com]:
    "...the company that makes and sells the dialers, in this case Dublin-based Nocreditcard.com, gets a good chunk of the profits..."

    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,35627,00.ht ml [wired.com]:
    "...The company behind Adultbuffet's dialer appears to be the No Credit Card Network, owned by Celtline Holdings based in Dublin, Ireland..."

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @03:21PM (#10332562) Homepage
    What ComReg is really doing [comreg.ie] is telling eircom that they can't charge for dialer calls. But they can't order eircom to provide free service. So they told eircom to either block or not bill. Here's the actual directive:
    • The Commission for Communications Regulation directs that Providers of Publicly Available Telephone Services shall no later 04 October 2004:
    • a) Suspend direct dial access to destinations listed in the attached Appendix B. The Appendix will be reviewed on a regular basis by ComReg and the network operators and amended appropriately in response to any significant changes to problem destinations; and
    • b) permit direct dial access to specific telephone numbers located within the destinations referred to in the attached Appendix B only at the request of a subscriber and following the network operator having verified that the requested telephone number is a legitimate service only or
    • c) As an alternative to only permitting direct dial access in accordance with paragraph b), above, providers of publicly available telephone services can choose to no longer charge any consumers for unauthorised call charges arising from Autodiallers.

    It's only for six months, until they figure out something better.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker