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Dial-Up Internet Users Be Warned

10th October 2004

After the last few days of frantic phone calls from friends and friends of friends, I thought I'd better put out a warning to everyone who is still using a dial-up connection to the internet. Back by unpopular demand are "dialers" which once your PC has one can cause your PC to dial premium rate numbers instead of your usual dial-up number.

Normally when your PC dials up to the internet, it will be using a 0808 number (free) or an 0845 number (local rate) as provided by your service provider. However, these dialers can change that number to a premium rate number, usually charged at 1 per minute. With one of these programs you can quickly find yourself with a phone bill well in excess of 300-400, some cases in the UK have reported bills of over 1000.

These dialers can come from many sources, although they are mainly found in e-mail attachments or can be loaded to your PC from unscrupulous web sites. Although not actually a virus, a dialer program can also attempt to download other dialers to your computer to continue the cycle.

Broadband users, due to the lack of a normal modem in their system are immune to this type of threat, however users that still maintain an old modem in their system for fax purposes or other analog uses can still find their system trying to dial one of these premium rate numbers. Most of the dialers active in the UK are attempting to dial 090 numbers so can be easily spotted if you check the number your PC is going to dial before you connect to the internet. Other hidden dialers might not be so evident.

The simplest method of stopping your phone bill bursting through the mat when it is next delivered is to contact BT and ask them to block all outgoing calls to premium rate numbers. Almost all anti-virus programs now detect these vicious little programs and will remove them for you, so make sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date. Ad-ware removal software is now also beginning to pick these things up.

Unfortunately, if you are caught out by a dialer, BT are not likely to be sympathetic and you will have to pay the bill in full.

So in summary:

1: Make sure your anti-virus protection is up-to-date. If you dont have any, try this excellent free software, http://free.grisoft.com/freeweb.php/doc/2/

2: Also get some ad-ware/spy-ware removal software like Ad-Aware which also has a free edition available here, http://www.download.com/3000-2144-10045910.html

3: Contact BT and ask them to block all outgoing calls to premium rate numbers.

Note, these actions are a great positive move, but nothing beats simple awareness, now that you know they exist, you can be on the lookout for them and you can tell everyone you know.

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