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Robocall Scammer's Historic $120 Million FCC Fine

$120 Million Robocall Fine on green background

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 05:30

Circle May 10th, 2018 on your calendar. That is the day the largest robocall fine in history was issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FCC). The $120 million fine against Adrian Abramovich was for making nearly 100 million robocalls over a three month period that spoofed CallerID.

Mr. Abramovich’s massive robocalling was part of an operation aimed at selling timeshares and other travel related packages. The FCC stated that between October 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, Mr. Abramovich averaged over a million calls a day through his companies, Marketing Strategy Leaders and Marketing Leaders. He used CallerID spoofing to trick consumers into answering the phone and listening to his advertising messages. 

The Truth in Caller ID Act prohibits spoofing with the intent to
cause harm, defraud, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.

By spoofing CallerID, he was able to make calls appear to be local by mimicking the first six digits of the recipient’s phone number. When the call was answered, a prerecorded message would offer an "exclusive" holiday or travel deal. The recording misled victims were into believing that the offers came from major hospitality companies such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, Hilton or Marriott.

If the recipient was interested in the prerecorded offer, the call was then transferred to a foreign call center. A live operator would then attempt to sell them vacation packages or timeshares in Mexico that were unrelated to the companies named in the prerecorded message.

For his efforts, Mr. Abramovich was paid by the call centers according to the amount of traffic he generated. But that came to a halt once the FCC became aware of his scamming actives. TripAdvisor was the first to report his illegal robocall operation to the FCC due to the number of consumer complaints received about the calls. 

FCC Chairman Ajat Pai said it was the "largest illegal robocalling scheme" the FCC had investigated
and therefore the fine was "appropriate".

The $120,000 million financial penalty against Mr. Abramovich is based on 80,000 spoofed calls the FCC was able to verify. Last year he had asked the FCC to reduce the amount, calling it disproportionate because most of his robocalls went unanswered or resulted in a quick hang-up by consumers. The FCC stood by its decision. 

Masterminding The Robocall Scam

In his April Senate testimony, Mr. Abramovich explained how he was able to manage his illegal robocall operation. He said that delivering recorded advertisements using spoofed numbers could be done with one click of a button thanks to modern software applications.

He explained, "There is available open-source software that can be misused by someone to make thousands of automated phone calls with the click of a button. There are websites right now that offer volume pricing for using their robocalling system that can handle millions of calls." 

Closing Thoughts

Technology that makes our everyday lives easier has also provided a cheap easy way for scammers to illegally reach consumers. Spoofing technology does have legitimate uses, but when misused it casts a dark shadow over the telemarketing industry. In the eyes of consumers, illegal telemarketing scammers are representative of the industry out of control. The faster the bad players, such as Mr. Abramovich, are removed the better it is for the industry. Equally important is the telemarketing industry’s expectation that the FCC will stress that Mr. Abramovich is not representative of all legitimate telemarketers.

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