Ireland blocks calls to 13 countries to thwart Net scam

Ireland’s telecom regulator said this week that is taking “extraordinary” measures to protect Internet users from rogue autodialer programs that hijack their modems and run up long-distance phone charges by suspending direct dialing to 13 countries, most of which are South Pacific islands.

The measure, announced by Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) on Monday, came in response to hundreds of consumer complaints about the scams. ComReg acknowledged that its move was extreme but said that previous efforts to raise awareness of the problem failed to significantly diminish complaints.

The autodialer programs change Internet users’ dial-up settings to call an international number without their knowledge. Users are often unaware that they have been targeted until they receive exorbitant phone bills at the end of the month. Broadband users, who have fixed numbers, are not affected.

According to the RegCom, one business in Ireland complained of receiving a phone bill for

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