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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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  • What's the scam ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:06AM (#10327182) Journal
    I mean I can see that if it's just to make people pay when there's no need, it'd be a real pain where it hurts, but if it's to try and collect on that money (by setting up a high-cost line then using a virus/trojan to change the settings to dial it), there must be someone making money out of it. Surely it ought to be possible to track down by the payments ?

    I suppose the line owner could claim innocence, but they'd have to be damn convincing about it if lots of people suddenly start dialling this high-cost line.

  • by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:07AM (#10327186)
    Lesson One. Be a European regulatory authority!

    BT, here in the UK, have been doing some similar actions recently although on a less extreme scale.(One of which is maximum cost control, they refuse to route any call where the cost is higher than the maximum cost for an inland premium-rate call in the UK).

    Its good to see regulators and firms acting to protect the more clueless users from themselves, as long as it doesn't prevent people requesting a line be opened.
  • power of boycott (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tsunamifirestorm ( 729508 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:08AM (#10327191) Homepage
    What about all those legitimate businesses that are dependent solely on Ireland for their existance? Seriously though, If more countries were like this, it would probably force the governments to crack down on scammers (or at least try to).
  • White lists (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hackerm ( 148340 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:09AM (#10327197)
    the regulator is also compiling a "white list" of legitimate numbers that consumers have requested to call

    So what's going to stop owners of those numbers in foreign countries to send an email requesting that their number is whitelisted?

  • by REBloomfield ( 550182 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:13AM (#10327210)
    Try reading the article. This isn't a spam issue, it's a premium rate dialler issue. If they move operations in a big way, then Ireland can react in the same way. To be honest, I can't imagine the loss of Ireland will make them want to move...
  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:23AM (#10327247)
    I'm still waiting for a valid criticism of my idea which is to delay payment from the people who supply a phone service (British Telecom in the UK, AT&T etc in the States) to the people who run premium rate numbers for 2 or 3 months, so that there is plenty of time for people to dispute their bills. So if I find I have a 1000 UKP bill to some dodgy little company on some obscure island, and I complain, and there are many other people in the same position, then payment is withheld until the dodgy company can account for itself.

    A runner, or fraught with difficulty?

  • by pklong ( 323451 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:29AM (#10327262) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jobsagoodun ( 669748 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:35AM (#10327274)
    They already do delay it. There was a brilliant scam done to BT 10 years ago when premium lines first came out. The scammers got two offices, and put 20 phone lines into one, and 20 premium lines into the other. The bills for the premium lines got paid out (to the scammers) every 30 days, but the phone bills on the out going lines were payable every 90. So the scammers phoned up the premium lines from their outgoing lines & too two months money off BT.

    At that point I think BT made the billing cycles the same!
  • by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:37AM (#10327284) Homepage
    Maybe Windows should make it a little more difficult to go altering dial-up settings. How many users would mind a warning message saying "a program is trying to change your dial-up".

    Does any spyware/anti-virus software check this (and I don't mean check for a piece of particular spyware, but check the behaviour).

  • by CheesyPeteza ( 814646 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:45AM (#10327313)
    Atleast its finally showing a government willing to do something about it. You can't just educate people overnight to become IT experts and never get fooled again by some auto dialer. There will always be people who don't understand the system they are using. Education isn't a complete solution, the telephone regulators have to step in and do something. I would actually like to see a ban on the extreme premium rate calls completely (the ones that charge about 1000% the price of the call), but still allow the double the cost ones for TV programmes to make money in their competitions/polls like who wants to be a millionaire etc.
  • by Unipuma ( 532655 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:46AM (#10327316)
    I hate to be the devil's advocate in this, but this also raises some privacy issues.

    If (for a legitimate reason) you need to call someone on one of those islands, how are you going to whitelist this number? Do you have to register with name and address? Additional information?

    You wouldn't be able to make an anonymous call anymore, because even public phones would have to be unblocked.

    Of course, there's always the question 'Why would you want to make an anonymous call', but I feel that falls in the same category as 'If you have nothing to hide....'
  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @05:47AM (#10327317) Journal

    Impact on the dialers? Hardly. Cutting into the flow of money to the scammers? Maybe a little bit. Preventing a lot of unfortunate, computer-illiterate irishmen from raking up giant telephone bills? Sure thing.

    And as far as I can understand the article, thats what it's all about - not to stop the scammers per se, but to prevent people from falling itno their trap. And as such, this is a Good Thing (tm) as far as I'm concerned.

    You could try to educate Joe Avrage (or Ola Dunk, as we call him), but even if you should manage that - and it ain't gonna be easy - it's all in wain when their spouse, stipid kid or geratic grandmother just 'borrows' the PC for a bit and clicks on something they shouldn't have clicked on... back to square one. Blocking whole nations like this may seem extrem, but it works. If you have a legitimate reason to call there, simply call the telco and ask them to put that number on the whitelist.

    A simular sceme - allthought user-initiated - are in place in Norway. You can ask that your phone shouldn't be allowed to call abroad, except to numbers you spesifificly designates. Or you can tell TeleNor (the biggest telco in Norway) that your phone isn 't supposed to call abroad, unless you dieal a spesific code first. I had to have a collegue set that one up, since his wife was (still is, despite countless attempts at teaching her) in the habit of clicking 'yes' to everything on screen...

  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:18AM (#10327384)
    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

    That's the other good thing about ADSL - I don't have to worry about shit like this. No (traditional) modem, no way it can dial out. Good job too, as in the past I've had to clean a handful of the little buggers off my girlfriend's PC.

    Sucks to be caught out by this sort of thing though - hope your brother gets/got the money back.
  • Not all education (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:19AM (#10327388)
    People keep saying that people need to educated, which is true, but even the educated can fall over by this one.
    It is very easy for you setting to be modified without knowing. Apparently most of these autodiallers disconnect a current session and reconnect without you realising, unless you have you modem sound turned on (and you might have you modem set up to auto re-dial if you get disconnected, which can be frequent with a crap service like Eircom).
    I have seen this actually happen to a friends computer recently, before I heard about this, which I spent ages try to get rid of all the spyware etc off. His dial-up settings had been changed, which fortunately he noticed!
    However his problem was that he kept getting virus/spyware alerts (as Norton warns you about TOO much), and a (stupid) friend of his told him to turn off the virus protection. He system was fried with crap as a result.
    I agree with a previous statement that windows should alert that setting have been changed. OS X something similar by warning youthe very first time any application is launched.

    Anyway, it is very easy for this to happen to you without you realising. Hopefully if you know about these things you will cop on very quickly, but not before you get a nasty phone bill.
  • Re:Duh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:22AM (#10327395)
    If I were implementing this, I'd have a (short) message describing why the call has been blocked, followed by "If you really want to be connected, please dial now."
  • Re:Duh! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:24AM (#10327398)

    That should read:

    "..., please dial [random 3 digit code] now."
  • Re:What's the scam ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @06:47AM (#10327454) Homepage
    hope your brother gets/got the money back.

    Not looking likely... but tell your MS-using UK friends: BT will password protect premium numbers so they can't be used by a dialler.


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

    by igb ( 28052 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:19AM (#10327533)
    Actually, the more dramatic scam involved `midnight lines'. Once upon a time, BT (or probably British Telecom, or even the GPO) would sell you a phone line with which you could make unlimited calls between midnight and six in the morning. Combined with a premium rate number you could get very rich. ian
  • Re:White lists (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnjuanny ( 257477 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:34AM (#10327572)
    Population is up to just about 4 million now, according to the last census. Which is of course still tiny (small enough that I'm pleasantly surprised that we're talking about Ireland) - but you'd be surprised how much is worth the scammers' time. With about 1 - 1.5 million people on the 'net here (IIRC from an article I read recently), it's still a healthy target market - especially as the vast majority of those are still on dialup since broadband is only now taking off here. Also I wonder just how well policed and updated this white list will be. It's easy to see it being quietly forgotten about. Still, seems to me to be an encouraging move.
  • by P1ON33R ( 164061 ) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:29AM (#10327810) Homepage
    That's the other good thing about ADSL - I don't have to worry about shit like this. No (traditional) modem, no way it can dial out.

    Unless you live in the Netherlands and you have an evil big telco (KPN) that changes your DSL line into an electronic payment facility, with a risk of EUR 3.000 per incident. The technology they used is called 'Klipping' to link the IP number to the phone number of the DSL connection being used. No matter who has access to your machine (could be a remote connection with a stealth web proxy) payments can be made and will be automatically subscribed from your bank account.

    This 'service' has been activated for all customers, without any notification at all, and with lies and cheats from KPN about the actual risks. For instance they clame that someone would have to literally dig up your phone line cable to abuse this system, which is a plain lie (wireless LANs, remote connections, etc.).

    Sorry I am still a bit upset about all this. ;) For more information search on google for 'Klipping' and 'Switchpoint'.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."