Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Money | By Bruce West

Robocall Operation Hit With $120 Million Fine

Robocall Operation Hit With $120 Million Fine

Mr Abramovich said he had not meant to "defraud or cause harm". After answering the calls, people were redirected to foreign call centers that attempted to sell timeshares and vacation packages.

The FCC has upheld a $120m fine levied against a man accused of making 96 million illegal robocalls.

The FCC just issued its largest robocalling fine ever for a robocaller (WARNING autoplay video) from Florida. "The Truth in Caller ID Act prohibits callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information with the intent to harm or defraud consumers or unlawfully obtain something of value", the FCC said in a statement. He is charged with making nearly 100 million robocalls over a three month period using spoofed caller ID. "He actually caused harm", countered FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a prepared statement. Here a person is more likely to pick up the phone if the call appears to be coming from their local neighborhood.

Abramovich's scheme involved calling unsuspecting customers with a prerecorded message instructing them to "Press 1" to hear more about an "exclusive" vacation deal offered by a well-known travel or hospitality company, like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Marriott, or Hilton, the FCC said.

The practice of using brand names in the recorded pitch apparently turned around to bite the Florida robocaller, though. A recent report by Hiya, a call-blocking service, found that Americans received 4.9 billion robocalls in just the first three months of 2018.

The FCC got a number of complaint calls about this, including complaints from TripAdvisor and Spōk, a medical paging provider company.

Unfortunately, the move against Abramovich is unlikely to reduce the number of robocalls that consumers receive on both cellphones and land lines.

In April, he told a Senate panel that he was "not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged". Abramovich said, during the hearing, that his robocalls could be done "with the click of a button" and thousands could be instantly through advances in software.

"This FCC is an active cop on the beat and will throw the book at anyone who violates our spoofing and robocall rules and harms consumers", Pai said.

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