NEW YORK - Consumers should read the fine print before clicking "yes" or "I accept" to questions that appear on so-called pop-up ads while browsing the Web. They could be agreeing to install software on their computers that then dials international locations. The result could be significant, and perhaps unexpected, international long-distance charges for which the customer is responsible.
This scam, known as "modem hijacking," occurs when a computer user sees certain ads pop up on the screen while visiting a Web site. If the user clicks on the pop-up, a series of questions appears asking the user to choose a "yes," "I agree," or a similarly phrased button to agree to the terms and conditions of the ad. A positive response to the question triggers a software download to the user's computer - which will then automatically dial the international phone numbers at random times without the customer knowing it.
The Federal Trade Commission, in response to increasing incidents involving this scam, has posted a consumer alert on its website at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alert/modmalrt.htm.
Consumers should always carefully read the disclosures, terms and conditions before agreeing to questions in on-line ads or permitting software to be installed on their computer.
John Broten, president of Verizon Long Distance advises: "If you have any doubt, do not agree to the download. If you do, you are essentially allowing someone, unknown to you, to use your computer. This may generate significant long-distance charges that you will be responsible for paying."
The ads associated with the scam often promise entertainment for free, which Broten notes, "should be a warning to consumers, since there is no such thing as a free lunch." The scam is primarily aimed at dial-up Internet users, not those who use a broadband connection such as DSL or cable modems. However, a word of caution to broadband users: If you still have a telephone line connected to your modem - to send faxes, for example - you are still vulnerable to this scam.
Internet access account owners in a household or business should make sure that all family members and others who might use the computer are aware of the potential scam.
Customers can take preemptive action to better protect themselves from these scams and unexpected charges that may result.
- Carefully read all the terms and conditions of any offer before downloading anything to your computer; unless you fully understand everything you are agreeing to, do not accept the download.
- Contact a reputable software vendor about programs that block pop-up ads ("pop-up blockers"), and identify and remove the types of programs that may be associated with modem-hijacking scams.
- Disconnect the telephone line to your modem when it is not in use.
Here are the key points to consider:
A Dow 30 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.