Imaginative fraudsters have been quick to use the web to turn a dishonest penny. In one case investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers were duped into making costly international telephone calls in a bid to ward off bills for goods they had not actually ordered. The scammers sent thousands of consumers an e-mail message thanking them for their order for goods priced at between $250 and $899 dollars, and informing them that their credit cards would be billed accordingly. The recipients were further perplexed when they found that the return address on the e-mail did not work. So they rushed to telephone the customer complaint number given in the e-mail.
But the calls went through to a number in Dominica, West Indies, and connected up to an adult entertainment audiotext service. The consumers later received bills for costly calls to Dominica. The owner of the phone number would simply recoup part of the call charge. The FTC acted on consumers’ complaints to block money for the calls being sent to Dominica, but was unable to identify immediately those responsible.
©OECD Observer March 2001