Action plea on premium rate scams

A FURIOUS mother has launched a campaign for tougher communications regulations after falling foul of a premium rate phone scam which has affected scores of others across the region.

A FURIOUS mother has launched a campaign for tougher communications regulations after falling foul of a premium rate phone scam which has affected scores of others across the region.

Angry Aileen Ogilvie was left shocked and distressed after receiving a BT bill which included more than £100 of calls to 0906 gambling and sex lines.

She has now enlisted the support of South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo, and is gathering evidence for presentation to Parliament from other victims affected by the scam.

“I am not going to let go of this,” said Mrs Ogilvie, who lives in Glemsford and whose bill payment has currently been put on hold.

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“It needs to be sorted out to help the people who are sitting there crying because they cannot pay these bills.

“There are people out there who really are not being heard, and do not have a voice. This, I hope, is going to help them.

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“I was absolutely aghast when I got my bill, like anyone else would be.”

Mrs Ogilvie was first alerted to the problem after her sister, who lives in Norfolk, was hit by a massive £500 bill. Her own invoice, which included more than £100 worth of calls to premium rate lines, followed soon after.

After researching the problem, Mrs Ogilvie realised the calls were being made automatically whilst she was connected to the internet.

She said: “It seems it is possible to hijack every single computer in the country, and internet activity of this type is not regulated by any official body.

“I just feel sorry for elderly people and single parents affected by this, and feel that this is not fair.

“It really is such a worry to have this hanging over you. Every morning I have woken up asking myself what I can do about it.

“The companies which are doing this should be fined and brought to rights, and there should be legislation to cover this. If this is left, it would be outrageous.

“Even people who have not been affected yet will be soon unless this is stopped. It makes me feel like I don't want a computer any more.”

Mr Yeo, who has written to both BT and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said yesterday: “I have taken this up, but there is a difficulty in knowing how widespread this issue is.

“If there is evidence to suggest that this is a significant problem, I think the DTI should be talking to the telephone companies about how they are going to address it.

“I hope this is something which could provoke a constructive response from the industry as it is clearly extremely upsetting for people if they are being billed for calls they have not made.”

A spokesman for BT advised customers to install anti-virus software and a firewall for extra protection, and said ICSTIC, which regulates premium rate phone numbers, could be contacted at should any problems occur.

“We have decided to act on this issue, which is causing genuine concern to us and thousands of our customers,” said Gavin Patterson, BT group managing director for consumers and ventures.

“When a premium rate number is suspected of being used to deliver rogue diallers, we will block traffic to that number without waiting for the regulator to complete an investigation.

“We need to minimise the number of customers being affected as quickly as we can and we cannot allow any more of our customers to fall victim.”

Mr Patterson also said BT offers free barring of premium rate numbers for every customer.

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