February 20, 1997 in Nation/World

Victims Of Web Sex-Site Scam Got An Eyeful - On Phone Bills


There’s nothing sexy about a $1,000 phone bill. That’s what some Internet users have discovered recently as they logged on to sex-oriented Web sites only to be unknowingly reconnected through their own phone line to the tiny Eastern European country of Moldova - at a cost of as much as $3 per minute.

Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission said it had a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Court in Hauppauge, N.Y., closing down what the FTC said is a scam operated by two New York businesses.

Meanwhile, Joseph Valiquette, an FBI spokesman in New York, confirmed the bureau was investigating to see if federal statutes had been violated.

The scam worked like this, the FTC said: When surfers arrived at a site, they were offered free material. The visitor was then told to download a file called david.exe to view the pictures.

But that’s not all the file did, the FTC said. It also secretly turned down the volume of the computer’s modem, disconnected the Internet access provider and reconnected the computer to Moldova via a company in Canada. The unknowing Internet surfer would then remain connected to Moldova after leaving the site. To end the call, the user would have to turn off the computer or unplug the telephone connection.

Eileen Harrington of theFTC said she did not know how many consumers were duped, but she said the scam added more than 800,000 minutes to phone bills in six weeks.

John Heath, a spokesman for AT&T;, said some individual phone calls had cost more than $200. The bills likely translated into cash for a company in Moldova, the FTC said.

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