ALBANY, N.Y – State lawmakers unveiled a bill Monday believed to be the first in the nation to target modem hijacking, a practice in which thieves tap into people’s computer modems to make international phone calls.
If passed, the law would allow telephone companies and the state attorney general to bring lawsuits against modem hijackers and their accomplices. The bill is expected to face a vote by the end of June.
The hijackers tap into people’s modems by luring computer users to Web sites – sometimes through e-mails – where pop-up windows emerge inviting the user to click on them. The windows authorize the downloading of modem software that is then remotely accessed to make international calls that are charged back to the user.
Verizon has begun investigating complaints from customers thought to be victims of modem hijacking, spokesman Cliff Lee said. He said the company also advises customers how to avoid the practice through consumer alerts and bill messages.
Consumers can fight hijacking by using a dedicated phone line for the computer dial-up connection, then blocking international calls to that line.
New York’s bill appears to be the first of its kind to specifically target modem hijacking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states are considering similar bills.