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EVEN PHONE SEX IS UP against cheaper foreign competition. Americans are dialing up 15 million minutes a month for dirty talk from overseas, according to a new study by TeleGeography, a Washington-based consulting group. That makes the U.S. the No.2 foreign phone-sex user, behind Germany. About 1.5% of the world's international telephone calls now are placed to offshore phone-sex services.

Caribbean countries such as the Netherlands Antilles and the Dominican Republic are big providers, raking in millions in fees. So are Hong Kong and the Philippines. Long-distance carriers bill the caller but must pay a fee to the foreign phone companies, which split it with the sex services.

Unlike the costly ($5-plus per minute) 900 numbers in the U.S., callers to foreign sex lines can pay less than $1 per minute for an international call. And these calls aren't as conspicuous on phone bills to spouses and others.Catherine Arnst

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