Robocaller King May Face $120 Million FCC Fine for Spoofed Calls
A Miami man alleged to have made 96 million spoofed robocalls last year could face a fine of $120 million from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The commission said yesterday it had verified 80,000 of those spoofed calls and based its proposed fine on that number.
According to a notice released yesterday by the FCC, Adrian Abramovich "is apparently liable for perpetrating one of the largest spoofed robocall campaigns that the Commission has ever investigated."
Automated Calls Are Top Complaint
The calls, reportedly made from Oct. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016, appeared to show as local on victims' caller IDs, with numbers that matched recipients' area codes and the first three digits of their phone numbers. Recipients who answered would hear an automated message prompting them to press 1 to hear details about "exclusive" vacation deals from familiar-sounding travel and hotel companies. However, they were instead transferred to overseas call centers marketing timeshares and other vacation packages, the FCC said.
Last month, more than 2.6 billion robocalls were made to people across the U.S., according to the cloud-based telecom service YouMail, which publishes a monthly index of automated calls. At an average of 8.1 calls per person, those contacts were most frequently attributed to debt collectors.
Robocalls are "consistently the top-ranked category of complaints that consumers bring to the agency," FCC chairman Ajit Pai said In a statement released with yesterday's announcement. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates such calls and has filed more than 100 lawsuits against individuals and companies accused of robocalling and other "Do Not Call" violations.
"Neighbor spoofing," the type of calls Abramovich is accused of making, involve automated calling that falsifies the information appearing on recipients' caller IDs. By looking as if they come from a local caller, such calls are more likely to gain people's trust and encourage them to pick up the phone, the FCC said.
Investigations Led to Abramovich Company
According to the notice issued against Abramovich, the Virginia-based healthcare communications company Spok contacted the FCC in December 2015 to report "a significant robocalling event that was disrupting its emergency medical paging service." The FCC subsequently traced those calls to Abramovich and his Florida-based company, Marketing Strategy Leaders.
In April 2016, the FCC was also contacted by the travel company TripAdvisor about robocalls made in its name. TripAdvisor said its independent investigation traced the calls to other travel companies that had contracted with Marketing Strategy Leaders.
After subpoenaing Marketing Strategy Leaders' call records in December, the FCC's enforcement bureau in January received information from the company about calls made over a three-month period last year. The bureau said those records showed that the company had made more than 1 million robocalls a day over that span, with samples of 80,000 individual calls showing that every one of them had been spoofed to appear to come from different area codes and phone numbers. The FCC said such calls constituted wire fraud and violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
In his statement yesterday, Pai said Abramovich "apparently found it profitable to send to these live operators the most vulnerable Americans -- typically the elderly -- to be bilked out of their hard-earned money. Many consumers spent from a few hundred up to a few thousand dollars on these 'exclusive' vacation packages."
Meanwhile, consumer organizations that follow robocalling activity are carefully watching another action under consideration by the FCC. The agency wrapped up public comment earlier this month on a proposed change to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that would officially allow something called "ringless voicemail."
Backed by supporters that include the Republican National Committee, that change would "allow telemarketing and debt collection messages to overwhelm the voicemail boxes of consumers," according to comments filed with the FCC last month by the National Consumer Law Center, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Responsible Lending, and other consumer advocacy groups.
Posted: 2017-06-27 @ 7:07pm PT
I personally never answer calls if the number doesn't look familiar. These companies need to be fined or maybe eliminated from this country! I have read many news stories about people suing them, but I don't think it will stop them.
John Horton, Esq.:
Posted: 2017-06-25 @ 7:02am PT
Simply terrible legalizing/encouraging voicemail spam!!! The idea that important messages may be buried in a mess of advertising... or worse! Such really threatens to put voicemail out of business as effective medium!
guess who, i bet ya can:
Posted: 2017-06-25 @ 6:46am PT
The FCC do not call list is worthless, I ask how much in fines have they collected to date. My guess is a big fat zero.
Posted: 2017-06-25 @ 6:43am PT
We get 7 to 10 of these calls a week, coming from all over the country. There has not been any with our area code as of yet. It's still a bother when your 80 years old.
Posted: 2017-06-25 @ 6:36am PT
Here's what I think- I want a portion of that fine. I was called by this clown numerous times. I reported the caller to the Do Not Call list.