BT customers have to pay for £5.5m internet scam

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The Independent Online

More than 50,000 British Telecom customers, cheated out of £5.5m by computer criminals using premium-rate number scams, face legal action from the telecoms company if they don't pay their bills.

More than 50,000 British Telecom customers, cheated out of £5.5m by computer criminals using premium-rate number scams, face legal action from the telecoms company if they don't pay their bills.

BT, which last year made £1.2bn in profits, admitted it is not prepared to challenge the scammers in court, even though 54,500 of its customers have been fleeced of an average of £100 each ­ £5.5m since May.

The scams are carried out by "Trojan dialler" programs that install themselves on computers while people surf the web. They then connect to the internet via premium-rate or international numbers costing about £1.50 per minute, rather than the 1p per minute that a typical internet connection would cost. BT has shut off access to 1,000 such numbers since July, but a spokesman said the company was still passing on money to the telephone networks and the scammers who set up the numbers.

"We have a contract with the network provider and the service provider," a BT spokesman said. "If we didn't pay them, we would be sued."

Credit card companies and banks that discover their customers have been defrauded bear the cost, or pass it on to shops which allowed the fraud.