FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine of Against Individual for Perpetrating Vast Caller ID Spoofing Operation
Adrian Abramovich made 96 million spoofed robocalls to consumers across the country during a three-month period
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a $120 million fine against an individual who apparently made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act. The law prohibits callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with the intent to harm or defraud consumers.
According to the FCC, Adrian Abramovich of Miami, Florida made 96 million spoofed robocalls during a three-month period. Abramovich's operation apparently made the spoofed calls in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages.
The proposed fine against Abramovich is based on 80,000 spoofed calls that the Commission has verified.
The FCC says that consumers reported receiving calls that appeared to come from local numbers but, if they answered, they heard an automated message prompting them to "Press 1" to hear about "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies such as Marriott, Expedia, Hilton, and TripAdvisor. Consumers who did press the button were then transferred to foreign call centers where live operators attempted to sell vacation packages often involving timeshares. The call centers were not affiliated with the well-known travel and hospitality companies mentioned in the recorded message.
TripAdvisor contacted the FCC in 2016 after receiving complaints from consumers claiming the company had been robocalling them. TripAdvisor independently investigated these complaints and identified Abramovich as the source. In addition, Spōk, a medical paging provider that serves hospitals, emergency rooms, and physicians, complained to the FCC that an illegal robocalling campaign was disrupting its network. From the information provided by Spōk, the Commission traced the calls to Abramovich. The FCC also received numerous consumer complaints that appeared to be in response to calls made by Abramovich.
The FCC says that Abramovich used what has been called "neighbor spoofing" in hopes of gaining the trust of those receiving the call and increasing the likelihood of their answering. Neighbor spoofing takes place when the caller falsifies the caller ID to match the area code and first three digits of the recipient's phone number, instead of the caller's number or the number where the call was actually originating.
The Commission says that it received numerous consumer complaints about this practice. For example, one consumer stated: "I have daily – sometimes multiple times [a] day – inbound spoofed calls (same area code and prefix as my own phone number) purporting to be from [Marriott] . . ."
The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 and the FCC's rules prohibit spoofing with the intent to cause harm, defraud, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. Consumers rely on caller ID information to make decisions about what calls to accept, ignore, or block. Accurate caller ID information is a vital tool that consumers use to protect their privacy, avoid fraud, and ensure peace of mind.
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau has also issued a citation to Abramovich for apparent violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act's (TCPA) robocall limits and the federal wire fraud statute. Under the Act, the Commission must first provide a warning—in the form of a citation—to TCPA violators if the person or entity in question does not possess a license or authorization issued by the FCC. If these violations continue, they may be subject to additional fines.