Duped surfers net refunds

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Thousands of people who ran up huge phone bills earlier this year trying to download erotic pictures to their computers will get pounds 1.6m in refunds from companies that rerouted their Internet connections through the former Soviet republic of Moldova. The United States Federal Trade Commission forced the payments from a number of US-based companies and individuals as part of two settlements.

Net users were told they needed a software program, provided for free, to view sex pictures at an Internet site in east Europe. But the program hijacked their computer modem: instead of dialling a local number, the modem was made to dial an international number in Moldova, costing up to $2 per minute. Any browsing the duped surfers did after that time also went via the Moldova number - at huge cost. Roughly 38,000 people were caught by the fraud. The case came to the FTC's attention when the AT&T telephone company workers noticed an increase in calls to Moldova.