Rogue Dialers – The Plot Thickens

The premium dialer, rogue dialer, Internet dumping problem (which I just happened, shameless self-promotion follows, to do a piece on which ran on WSJ.com a few weeks back, and on the BBC World Service last Friday) is a weird problem, not least because it would seem to be an easy one to stop. Surely the sleazeballs who are diverting people’s modems to high-paying international telephone numbers should be easy enough to catch, since the money is drawn by the less-than-sinister means of adding it to your phonebill?

It seems to be more complicated than that, at least according to a company that handles the billing  for some of these sleazeball sites. New Hampshire-based Premier Premium Communication has attracted much of the flak over rogue dialers because it is its name that appears on victims’ bills. But while the company remains quite secretive (understandable perhaps; there are a lot of people mad at them out there), it has shed some of that secrecy in a press release issued on Monday in which it seeks to put some distance between itself and its clients:

Premier Premium Communication provides the billing for a number of pay- per-view websites and is not related to “modem hijacking,” or other unscrupulous web practices, company officials said Monday. The company provides only the billing for the UK sites.

PPC’s argument is basically this: Because it handles the billing for a UK company that in turn runs the websites that are causing the problem, it doesn’t directly own or control those websites, ergo it’s not responsible:

Premier Premium Communication is owned by an investor group in New Hampshire that also owns National One Telecom and One Web Direct. The company sends out about 15,000 invoices a week for their client, a UK company that manages a number of pay-per-view websites. Of those, about 4 percent are contested, below the average for the industry. The UK websites, which are neither clients of nor under the control of the N.H. billing company, provide gaming, sports information, entertainment and similar services via the web.

An interesting argument, and PPC must be feeling the pressure to be coming out and saying this. Iit doesn’t, however, go as far as providing an address, contact name, email address or phone number on the press release to allow me to easily follow this up. Which is a shame, because actually their press release merely highlights how complex and messy this whole business is: PPC says that what is upsetting users are the international charges (as separate from the charges for visiting pay-per-visit websites) for which it cannot be responsible: “Consumers who use these websites also incur an international long distance charge from their phone carrier, which is separate from Premier’s billing”.

That said, PPC is offering refunds to those contested charges that prove to be sleazeworthy, and, somewhat charmingly, offers some tips to avoid these scams:

The company is processing each billing dispute to determine which requests are from victims of modem hijacking and will receive a credit or in some cases a refund.

I’m going to look more closely at all this, because I don’t think the phone companies seem to be doing much about it, and I’m guessing that the whole business may be even more complicated than PPC make out. For example, what of the role of the telcos (and even governments) from those remote destinations that victims find themselves calling? PPC, please get in touch if you read this, and I’d be delighted to hear from victims, or, indeed, anyone with light to shed on this scam.

 

14. December 2004 by jeremy
Categories: E-commerce, Scams | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. According to their whois records, their details are:

    Phoenix One Billing, LLC.
    PO BOX 10718
    Bedford, NH 03110
    US
    1-800-449-0293

    Administrative Contact:
    Lymar, Alex webmaster@premierpremium.com
    PO BOX 10718
    Bedford, NH 03110
    US
    1-800-449-0293

    Their claim to be far removed from their clients sounds odd, given what they say in their FAQ (http://www.premierpremium.com/faq.php#110) :

    “There is absolutely no way that the billing software our clients have developed would connect you without your knowledge. Before the software can dial out, you are given a disclosure which clearly displays the cost of the call as well as other important information.”

    If they are just an intermediary, how can they make promises about software? And if they make the software, surely they control exactly how ‘stealthy’ it can be…

  2. Hello , To anyone who cares…Yes the complex questions remain , And the ripoff rate soars into the billions and yes terrorism and The Binladen Group and the telecommunications industry are intimatly linked…a billion $$ a month towards the terrorism budget is being ‘picked-up’ by (honest though ignorant) Americans trying to protect their credit ratings , these are international banking experts and Verizon-USBI-Telliss-Navicom-Opticom-Phoenix One Billing-Premier Premium Communication all are sophisticated “Three Card Monty” anus sucking maggots who if were confronted would run to mommy with a “it’s not me” bullshit crybabie finger pointing pissing contest , and the only way to stop the thieves is spreading the word and REFUSE TO PAY any Bogus charges that magically appear on your phone bills ! These Are Terrorists Operating Offshore Out of Reach of Prossecution but accessing All Your Personal Banking Information and Draining U.S. Citizens Bank Accounts…N.S.A.-Secret Service-F.B.I.-C.I.A-R.C.M.P- I have tried to report the CRIME and all I get is “complex question” for an answer… Complex and verrry Profitable….These Are The Enemy of America …Get it – Got it ? – Good God get your SLEAZY mitts off my data.

  3. Not only are the little charges in the disclaimer false it has dialed before the disclaimer even pops up. unistall removes the icon but not the dialer personally I would like to hang them by their balls until change their tune. INFOSERVICe is another name they hide behind with only a PO BOX number I have asked my associates in the Hell’s Angels to get a name and responsible party from the San Jose, CA PO BOX 23189 hope they have better luck than we have

  4. The dialer is stealth downloaded without knowledge if you are unfortunate to visit any associated web site. No Microsoft patch or security will slow these predators down. Under the pretense of loading an image they are actually downloading hidden files and hidden key registry files to invoke the dialer at various times, or with specific hidden triggers. Virus checkers, adware and spyware programs will not find it. They are scum worthy of destruction by any means possible since the law means nothing to them so not should it interfere with our recourse.

  5. I just saw this news story on the local New Hampshire TV stations site. It deals with the said company and how some one is doing something about it.

    read it here

    http://www.thewmurchannel.com/news/5027773/detail.html

  6. To bad little can be done.

  7. Great blog.
    Too bad that the complex questions remain…