updated 4/6/2005 12:23:01 AM ET 2005-04-06T04:23:01

State lawmakers unveiled a bill Monday that is believed to be the first in the nation to target modem hijacking, a practice in which thieves tap into people's computer modems to make international phone calls.

If passed, the law would allow telephone companies and the state attorney general to bring lawsuits against modem hijackers and their accomplices. The bill is expected to face a vote by the end of June.

The hijackers tap into people's modems by luring computer users to specific Web sites —sometimes through e-mails — where pop-up windows emerge inviting the user to click on them. The windows authorize the downloading of modem software that is then remotely accessed to make international calls that are charged back to the user.

"This is a new kind of thievery and it takes new kinds of law to deal with them," said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, one of the bill's sponsors.

Verizon has begun investigating complaints from customers thought to be victims of modem hijacking, spokesman Cliff Lee said. He said the company also advises customers how to avoid the practice through consumer alerts and bill messages.

Consumers can fight hijacking by using a dedicated phone line for the computer dial-up connection, then blocking international calls to that line. Lawmakers said people should also install a firewall to block hackers and avoid unfamiliar Web sites, although some hijackers masquerade behind legitimate-sounding names.

New York's bill appears to be the first of its kind to target modem hijacking specifically, said Pam Greenberg of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states are considering similar, broader bills, she said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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