04/02 - AT&T is pulling out of the business of billing for 900
numbers, and Access — the company represented by Miss Cleo
in television ads — must find another way to bill so it is
trying to convince callers to use their credit cards, charging a
monthly fee of $29.95 for 30 minutes.
They have also directed some callers to use an international phone
number that would take their calls all the way to the tiny island
of Niue and back to the United States, resulting in per-minute charges
of from $7- $16.
Niue, located 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from New Zealand,
between Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, has been a favorite of
some telemarketers who run porn or psychic hot lines.
With fewer than 2,000 people — and 400 telephone lines — Niue
has no city or area codes, so every number on the island is 683 and
four digits making it easy for callers to imagine they were making
a local call but show up on telephone bills as international calls
The companies split the profits with the Niue telephone company
after routing the calls through Niue and back to the United States
on a leased line, where they were then dispatched to psychics around
Niue has been accused of fostering money laundering, and has also
been linked to a scam in which software, planted in computers, took
control of modems and made calls to porn lines with numbers in Niue,
unbeknownst to the owners of the computers.
Purveyors of telephone sex have gone offshore in an effort to bypass
U.S. restrictions on 900 and 976 services, also known as pay-per-call
information services. In some cases, advertising for the services doesn't
clearly state that calls to the numbers are going overseas or that
the calls will result in a significant charge to a customer's telephone
The FCC and the FTC have both issued rules designed to thwart deceptive
marketing of telephone information services but long-distance companies
say the services seem to find ways around them.
While most international calls begin with 011, then a two-digit
country code and then a six-digit or seven-digit number, Canada and
some Caribbean nations have area codes and numbers that resemble
U.S. long-distance numbers.
Some services even use 800 numbers as gateways to overseas calls.
Callers may be directed to dial an access code that connects them
directly to the service. Other services may tell callers to hang
up and dial a number that turns out to be an overseas call.
Moldova, Sao Tome, Dominican Republic and Guyana have shared profits with the sex lines and
see it as a way to mine money from their telephone networks.
Fraud investigators monitor the MCI network for unusual charges
to customers' telephone numbers paying particular attention to calls
to Sao Tome and certain Caribbean nations, especially if customers
rarely make international calls. AT&T reviews each complaint
and often removes charges for first-time calls to the services.
International dial-a-porn is a persistent problem for parents who
want to protect themselves from excessive telephone charges. There
really aren't very many safeguards other than talking with your children
about long-distance calls and sex lines and telling them how to recognize
overseas numbers. You can also ask the phone company to block calls
to 900 services and international calls.
Sao Tome - Island off the West African coast, adjacent to
Gabon near the Equator, population of 165k with 3k land phone lines
plus 5k cellular. Per minute charges of $2-7 minute discounted
long distance from North America.
Parcel delivery offer postal scam is linked
to pay per call telephone fraud
06/14/04 - U.K. - CONMEN are targeting Cambridge with a postal scam
encouraging people to call a premium rate telephone number.
Postcards are dropping through letter boxes informing people they
have a parcel waiting to be delivered.
The cards are delivered by a Leeds-based firm called Parcel Plus
and urge people to ring a number to arrange a delivery time.
Trading standards today warned the number was a premium rate line
costing £1.50 a minute with calls lasting for seven minutes.
It is not known if people calling the number do receive a parcel
but officers, who have received a number of complaints about the
scam, said it was unlikely the value would cover the cost of the
Now they are urging people to bin the cards and ignore the offer.
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: "This is what's
known as a quick and dirty scam.
"What you get is a postcard through the door saying you have
a parcel to get and to ring this number. It is at premium rate and
involves you being on the phone for seven minutes.
"We are sure that if you receive a parcel it will be something
you haven't asked for and will be worth less than the cost of the
"We would urge people if they get these cards to put them in
the recycle bin."
The spokesman added: "Anyone locally receiving a postcard like
this for parcels they are not expecting should contact the Independent
Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information
on (0207) 940 7474."