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12/21/2006
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German Net Scammers Sentenced To Four Years

The two men were part of an Internet auto-dialing scam that netted them more than 12 million euros, or $15.8 million.

A pair of men were sentenced Wednesday in a German court to jail terms of up to four years for their part in an Internet auto-dialing scam that netted them over 12 million euros ($15.8 million).

The two, who went unnamed in local press reports, were sentenced in a northwestern German court to 39 and 48 months in prison, although prosecutors had demanded terms of between 54 and 60 months.

Their scam, which went on from July 2002 to September 2003, used a Trojan horse planted on numerous pornographic Web sites that infected more than 100,000 PCs, then downloaded an automatic dialer to the victimized machines. The auto-dialer rang up an expensive toll number rather than the users' usual dial-up Internet connection numbers. The men, now aged 31 and 35, received commissions from the German telephone company for the calls. By the time the fraud was discovered, the scammers had pocketed nearly $16 million in fees.

Prosecutors also failed to win approval for a court order that would've required the men to repay 7.75 million euros ($10.2 million).

"The German authorities have done well in bringing these offenders to justice," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant for Sophos, in a statement. "These hackers infected a staggering 100,000 PCs and forced them to dial a premium rate number to make them cold, hard cash."

This summer, another two men involved in the scam were sentenced to prison for 18 and 22 months.

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