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Computer criminals have used premium-rate numbers to defraud unsuspecting Internet users.One scheme involved inducing users to download a program known as a dialer that surreptitiously dialed a premium-rate number, accumulating charges on the user's phone bill without their knowledge.
Unlike a normal call, part of the call charge is paid to the service provider, thus enabling businesses to be funded via the calls.Due to complaints from parent groups about kids not knowing the dangers and high cost of such calls, the FTC enacted new rules and such commercials ceased to air on television as of the mid-1990s.Using 900 numbers for adult entertainment lines was a prevalent practice in the early years of the industry.A call to either one of these numbers can result in a high per-minute or per-call charge.For example, a "psychic hotline" type of 1-900 number may charge .99 for the first minute and 99 cents for each additional minute.At that time, many evening news agencies conducted "pulse polls" for $.50 per call charges and displayed results on television.
One early use was by Saturday Night Live producers for the sketch "Larry the Lobster", featuring Eddie Murphy. AT&T and the producers of SNL split the profits of nearly 0,000.Earlier, 976 numbers used 976 as a local prefix (970 or 540 in some markets like New York state), though it was not assigned to a specific telephone exchange like other prefixes.These numbers were dialed as any other number, such as 976-1234.Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones.In some jurisdictions, telephone companies are required by law to offer such blocking.In 1992, the Supreme Court allowed a law passed by Congress that created a block on all 900 numbers that provided adult content, except for those consumers who requested access to a specific number in writing.