FCC issues $120M fine for 'neighbor spoof' robocalls

FCC issues $120M fine for 'neighbor spoof' robocalls”

Authorities say a Miami man's operation apparently made 96 million spoofed robocalls created to trick people into answering their phone and listening to sales pitches about vacation deals.

A federal agency has proposed its largest fine ever, $120 million, for illegal robocalls that "spoofed" or falsely identified the caller.

Abramovich's operation seemingly made the calls in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into answering and listening to a series of advertising messages that posed as "exclusive" deals from prominent travel firms including Expedia, Marriott, Hilton and TripAdvisor. Instead, they got transferred to a call center where salespeople pushed low-quality travel deals, often related to timeshares, that were unaffiliated with the brands in the prerecorded message at the start of the call.

After receiving complaints from travel companies and recipients alike, the FCC traced the calls back to Abramovich.

The FCC said Abramovich used a technique known as "neighbor spoofing" to gain the trust of consumers. The FCC also regulates such calls and has filed more than 100 lawsuits against individuals and companies accused of robocalling and other "Do Not Call" violations.

If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request. "That's why I'm pleased that today the Commission is taking major, unprecedented action against what appears to be the most egregious "neighbor spoofing" robocalling scheme we have ever seen".

Although they seem to easily persist, robo-callers have been under constant threat, having the FCC, FTC, cell phone carriers, and even congress take measures to stop them. Abramovich's scheme also disrupted an emergency medical paging service used by first responders.

The FCC said it was responding to complaints from consumers as well as from TripAdvisor, which had received complaints from robocallees.

Attempts to reach Abramovich were unsuccessful.

"When phone numbers are spoofed and what appears to be a trusted or familiar source actually originates from a party intent on misleading, defrauding. or causing harm", FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said.

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