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Dialers (from the English dial for “to choose”), also called dial-up programs , are in the narrower sense computer programs that can be used to establish a dial-up connection to the Internet or other computer networks via the analog landline network or the (digital) ISDN network . There are also dialers for cell phones. They achieved particular awareness through the numerous cases of abuse in the area of premium rate dialers , which often unintentionally and unnoticedly select expensive value-added data services and thus lead to high costs for the injured party. In a broader sense, it also refers to other payment methods via value-added services and telephone connections that are related to data connections.

Concept, appearance and distribution of dialers

Many operating systems come with a standard dial-up program for connections using the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP). In Windows it is called " Dial- Up Networking". The dial-up program must be started if you want to set up an Internet connection via a conventional telephone line and run until you close it. Many providers offer installation CDs that should make it easier for inexperienced customers to set up a suitable Internet connection. This is done either by creating an entry in the dial-up network of the Windows operating system or by installing a company-specific dial-in program (for example the T-Online or Bluewin software). In the broader sense, not only the dial-up program itself, but also its installation program is often referred to as a “dialer”. In the Internet-by-call - Software least cost routers are also dialers, the term dialer is not used for them in general - it extends in common parlance only to the premium rate dialer , so Dialer for Selecting expensive value-added data services , in Europe mostly numbers starting with 0900-0999. In addition to soft phones and dialing programs (such as the Windows Phone Dialer ) for conventional landline - voice connections sometimes referred to as dialers (English to dial includes both to choose and a select).

The inventor of the dialer is Toni Saretzki, who with his company TSCash GmbH became the market leader in German-speaking Europe. The originally invented dialer was reputable and a convenient and easy to use payment method.

With the increasing spread of DSL connections, dialers have largely become obsolete. However, dialers have been used on cell phones and are conceivable via Voice over IP .

Value-added service dialer

0900-dialer (also premium rate dialer or Webdialer called earlier in Germany "0190-dialer") serve paid data or online - value-added services to market and amounts of money on the phone bill as voice value-added services to settle on the network operator. Such dialer numbers can be recognized by the special number 0900, 0901, 0906, 0930 or others that start with 09, depending on the country .

These numbers or services were initially only intended for z. B. to settle weather forecasts or competitions via the telephone bill. To do this, the customer dialed in using a special telephone number and had the costs debited from the telephone bill. The same principle was soon used for dialing in to the Internet, for which special numbers are also used. With 0900 dialers, the connection costs are usually significantly higher than with normal Internet connections, but additional services, such as access to additional content, should be offered. In Germany, unlike the earlier 0190 numbers, there are no uniform charges for special 0900 dial-in numbers, but these must now be displayed.

There are also so-called DSL dialers (also known as Hanseatic dialers). However, this designation is incorrect because it is not a dialer in the technical sense: No 0900 charges can be billed via DSL . So you have to with his phone dial a 0900 number, which the service provider receives payment. As long as this connection exists, the customer can visit a chargeable Internet site that the service provider will activate as long as the voice connection exists. When you hang up the phone, the offer, e.g. B. a website, is no longer available.

In theory, however, it is conceivable to set up connections to value-added services via a Voice over IP network. However, this assumes that these services can also be reached via such a network.

In addition, dialers can also be run from mobile phones and use data services such as SMS . In the field of mobile communications, there is a special form of value-added service that is addressed using numbers of the so-called network-internal speed dialing . The premium value-added service roughly corresponds to the premium SMS, which can also lead to high costs.


When the term “dialer” is used, one usually thinks of those dialers that are distributed by dubious, sometimes criminal providers who charge increased fees without the express or insufficient consent of the customer. In 2003 the special number range 0900-9 was introduced for dialers in Germany. Dialers who dial in via numbers other than this number range cannot - as required - be registered with the Federal Network Agency and are therefore illegal.

Using tricks similar to viruses and worms , the programs are mainly distributed on PCs with the Windows operating system. This software then sets up new, chargeable connections to expensive value-added service numbers without the knowledge of the user. The inexperience and gullibility of the users allowed the distributors of such dialers to generate large amounts of money. In 2002 and 2003, dubious dialers were installed on unsuspecting German Internet users with the help of alleged virus protection programs : e-mails from an alleged " anti-virus team" contained, for example Sometimes the subject line had the addition “Forward”, but advertised a program called downloadtool.exe or antivirus.exe , which was actually an 0190 dialer, via a link . In addition, numerous comparable cases became known.

A Visual Basic script that emerged in early 2003 installed a Trojan horse that changed values ​​in the Windows registry and in the security settings of Internet Explorer so that ActiveX control elements could be loaded from the Internet without warning. An expensive dialer was downloaded from the Internet by calling up such a page or by e-mail . The script also switched off the modem loudspeaker and suppressed the messages while a dial-up connection was being established.

In order to prevent abuse and its legal consequences for the "user", extensive case law has been created and a new law (Value Added Services Act (MWD Act)) has been passed, which supplemented the Telecommunications Act with mandatory requirements for dialers.

International and satellite dialers

Foreign and satellite dialers (also known as "international dialers") represent a special form of abuse, although they do not dial domestic or foreign value-added services, but only foreign numbers or satellite numbers. The initiators earn money through distribution agreements with foreign network operators. Such connections are therefore not shown as value-added services on the telephone bills, but only as normal international connections. Legally, the illegality of this form is also represented, so that damaged subscribers do not have to pay network operators for such billed connections or can reclaim them from the billing network operator.

Protection against dialers

To protect yourself, you can apply to your telephone company to block special numbers for your own connection - just as you can have all outgoing value-added services blocked in this way. This blocking then also affects the fax retrieval of information - which is offered in TV broadcasts, for example - and also applies to support numbers.

Since in Germany even the actually secure area codes 0191 to 0195, which should be reserved for Internet access via modem, have already been misused by dialer providers, such a procedure does not fully protect. As additional protection against dialers, so-called "dialer blockers" are available in electronics retailers, which are installed between the computer and the TAE socket. Up to 12 phone numbers can be entered as a positive list in such a device. As soon as a number does not match the saved numbers, the dialing attempt is prevented.

Users who only connect to the Internet via DSL are not affected by dialers as long as the DSL connection is established via the network card and the computer is the only connection to the outside world. A dialer can then be downloaded, but is ineffective, because dialing in via DSL is not possible as there are no conventional telephone numbers in the DSL network. That is why the developers of dialers have now changed the access. It now takes place via value-added services in the mobile communications sector. Dialog boxes appear like: “Please enter your mobile phone number. You will immediately receive the access code via SMS. "

Legal regulations and case law

Since August 15, 2003, the "Law to Combat the Abuse of (0) 190 / (0) 900 Value-Added Service Numbers" has come into force as an amendment to the Telecommunications Act (TKG), which in particular with § 66f TKG contains binding rules for dialer Providers and mandatory registration stipulated. For the provider this leads to the following obligations:

  • Obligation to quote the price of the provider
  • Price caps, authentication procedures and automatic separation
  • Registration of dialer programs.

In addition, consumers have a right to information from the Federal Network Agency .

On March 4, 2004, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that charges for dialer use do not have to be paid if the dialer was used unknowingly and certain security precautions were observed. With a judgment of July 28, 2005, the Federal Court of Justice once again strengthened the position of consumers by denying the network operator its own right to a fee. In a further ruling of October 20, 2005, the Federal Court of Justice consistently developed the case law further by granting the user a right to repayment of his fee if he had paid the network operator with reservations.

Criminal law aspects

Most of the cases of successful dialer distribution are fraud in accordance with Section 263 of the Criminal Code and possibly other acts such as data change in accordance with Section 303a of the Criminal Code.

If the use of a dialer constitutes fraud , then there is a predicate offense according to Section 261 of the Criminal Code, so that the collection of the claim could meet the objective criteria of money laundering . There is a similar problem with cell phone payments .

Weaknesses of the legal regulations

The legal regulations make the improper installation of dialers somewhat more difficult, but they have many fundamental weaknesses:

  • Registration of dialing programs: What a dialing program does cannot be determined by "looking at" the dialer. The behavior can be made dependent on many parameters (date, IP address, CPU, RAM expansion, number of users, duration of use, availability of URLs on the Internet) and behave “tame” with the registration authority. Even if you have the source code, such hidden functions are not always easy or reliable to find.
  • The selection program can be modified later.
  • The information texts of the providers are often only partially and incompletely legible with non-standard settings regarding fonts, font sizes and permitted scripting languages.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Dialer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cell phone viruses and cell phone dialers ( memento of the original from January 31, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. - Page at Computerbetrug.de ; Status: 2011 (accessed December 19, 2012)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.computerbetrug.de
  2. Nordmeyer: Value-added services and dialing programs (dialers) from the perspective of subscriber line owner and customer protection de lege lata and de lege ferenda as well as the special issue of foreign dialers. Munich 2009, p. 55 f.
  3. Nordmeyer: Value-added services and dialing programs (dialers) from the perspective of subscriber line owner and customer protection de lege lata and de lege ferenda as well as the special issue of foreign dialers. Munich 2009, p. 83 ff.
  4. Court confirms ban on 0193 dialers - article at Heise online , from October 25, 2006 (accessed on December 19, 2012)
  5. ^ BGH, judgment of March 4, 2004 , Az. III ZR 96/03
  6. ^ BGH, judgment of July 28, 2005 , Az. III ZR 3/05, full text
  7. ^ BGH, judgment of October 20, 2005 , Az. III ZR 37/05, full text
  8. Fülling / Rath: Internet Dialer - A criminal investigation , JuS 2005, issue 7, p. 598 ff.
  9. ^ AG Hamburg-St. Georg: MMR 2006, p. 345 ff. (Issue 5); LG Essen, judgment of March 9, 2007 , Az. 52 KLs 24/06, full text