August 29, 2001 04:52pm
U.S. Settles with Porn Sites Over Phone Bills
(WASHINGTON DC) -- Several adult Web site operators have agreed to settle charges that they fraudulently connected customers through an international phone line to Madagascar, costing unwitting subscribers thousands of dollars in long-distance fees.
According to a series of settlements reached with the Federal Trade Commission [http://www.FTC.gov], several Web sites routinely employed software that would disconnect customers from their regular Internet service provider and reroute their Internet connection to a provider in Madagascar.
The FTC said Charlo Barbosa B.C. Ltd., and Virtualynx [http://Virtualynx.com] operated adult sites offering memberships for $34.95 to $49.95 per month. The companies also offered those without a credit card the option of downloading "sex software" for immediate access to adult content.
The commission said many consumers first learned of the long-distance charges when they received their phone bill and found charges of up to $7.39 per minute to calls supposedly made to Madagascar. As part of the settlement, both companies were ordered to pay $26,686 in consumer redress.
In a separate action, the FTC announced a similar settlement with a Charleston, S.C., woman named Hillary Sheinkin (a.k.a., Hillary Perse and Honey Smith), doing business as Witchy's Web Inc., Honeybun Inc., and Free Sugar Inc. [http://FreeSugar.com].
Sheinkin's sites advertised access to adult content with "no credit cards needed." Once on her sites, however, consumers were redirected without notice to adult content via an international dialer. Sheinkin was ordered to give up $10,000 in bogus charges.