Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Costly International Calls May Be Spyware Scam

Some consumers have complained to us that they have received bills for long-distance phone calls for which they do not believe they are responsible. The calls were supposedly placed on their computers and involved visits to pornographic websites based in foreign countries, most notably Great Britain. The bills are as much as $200 or more.

You should be aware that you are responsible for any use of your computer by a person with access in your household. This means you should be careful about unsupervised use of computers by your children and their friends.

However, you should also be aware that if your computer is infected by certain kinds of spyware, it could be hijacked and used to dial up for-pay websites, including pornographic websites, without anyone in your household being aware of it.

If you receive an unexpected bill for international long distance telephone calls, you should of course inquire as to the destination of the calls. If they involve for-pay websites, you should very carefully review who has access to your computer and who may have been misusing it. My greatest concern would be that a child was accessing inappropriate and possibly dangerous websites.

If you are convinced that no one used your computer to access the sites in question, you may wish to consider filing a consumer complaint with our office at You should also look for a good anti-spyware program to install on your computer - it's a good idea in any case.

Internet safety tips for parents, kids, and consumers are available on our website at Information about spam is available at The Internet is a wonderful resource. Use it wisely.


ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.