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Read the fine print or risk hefty phone bills when downloading

by Tina Canon

STAFF WRITER

Internet users, beware. Read the fine print in user agreements or risk big phone bills, the National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch warns.

The costs are incurred during the downloading of certain programs for adult entertainment, said NCL spokeswoman Holly Anderson.

The costs vary according to the time of day, the length of time the users are connected and the rates charged under consumers' long-distance calling plans, Anderson said.

The downloads are attractive to consumers, especially children, because they don't require a credit card, Anderson said.

The information about how the program works and the telephone charges that may result are hidden deep within the long user agreement, Anderson said.

There also is no way to ensure the person who downloads the program is responsible for the phone bill, she said.

"These types of 'Dialer Programs' have been around for sometime," Anderson said. "You may be dialing Africa, Australia or Jamaica, resulting in international calls that could mount up to $8 a minute that you are responsible for."

Brochures are available at the National Fraud Information Center Web site on protecting privacy, security and the safety of children online. They also have an online "Incident Report Form." The Internet Fraud Watch (www.fraud.com) can be reached by calling 800-876-7060 or 800-466-6736.

The National Fraud Information Center has several sponsors including MCI, Verizon, and BellSouth Corporation.

Dan Salsburg, attorney for the Federal Trade Commission encourages consumers to visit its Web site at www.FTC.Gov or call 877-FTCHELP for additional information on "Dialer Programs."

Staff Writer Tina Canon can be reached at 626-1404 or be e-mail at tcanon@exponent-telegram.com.

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