The FCC proposed imposing a fine of $120 million against one person who it’s said made made nearly 100 million spoofed robocalls. The alleged robocall scam violates the Truth in Caller ID Act, which makes it illegal to deliberately falsify caller ID information so as to disguise a caller’s identity with the intent to defraud or otherwise harm consumers.
Miami, Florida resident Adrian Abramovich is said to have made 96 million spoofed robocalls during a period of just three-months, the FCC highlights. The agency has verified 80,000 of them, and that serves as the basis for the proposed fine.
Abramovich is said to have made the spoofed robocalls in order to trick consumers into answering calls that played his advertising messages. The calls were identified as originating from local numbers, but those who answered were then prompted to press “1”. This technique is known as “neighbor spoofing,” the FCC explains.
Rather than seeing the caller’s number or the number where the call was actually originating, the robocall recipient would see a false call ID that matched the local area code, along with the first three digits of the recipient’s phone number, however.
Upon pressing 1 in response to the message prompt, consumers would hear advertising messages to do with exclusive vacation deals from the likes of Marriott, Expedia, Hilton and TripAdvisor, the FCC elaborates.
They were transferred foreign call centers, where live operators tried to sell them vacation packages that often involved timeshares. The call centers were not affiliated with the companies mentioned in the recorded messages.
TripAdvisor alerted the FCC regarding Abramovich’s spoof robocalls in 2016 after receiving complaints from consumers claiming the company had been robocalling them, the FCC recounts. Conducting its own investigation, TripAdvisor identified Abramovich as the source.
In addition, medical paging provider Spok complained to FCC staff that an illegal robocalling campaign was disrupting its network. Following up, the FCC traced the calls to Abramovich. The agency notes that it received numerous other consumer complaints apparently in response to robocalls apparently initiated by Abramovich.
Besides the FCC’s proposed, $120 million fine, the agency’s Enforcement Bureau issued a citation to Abramovich for apparent violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall limits and the federal wire fraud statute. As per the Act, the FCC must first issue a warning, in the form of a citation, to violators if they do not possess a license or other authorization from the FCC. Additional fines may be imposed if they fail to desist from further violations.
The number of robocalls received in U.S. each month has been setting new records, at least as of last June, when YouMail reported that more than 2.49 billion robocalls had been received across the U.S. in May 2016 – an average 930 per second.
Image courtesy of flickr user drewleavy.