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In just three months, one Miami man apparently bombarded consumers with 96 million spoofed robocalls in an attempt to sell vacation packages, many of which included timeshares.
Adrian Abramovich faces a $120 million fine from federal regulators, who said this was “one of the largest — and most dangerous — illegal robocalling campaigns that the Commission has ever investigated.” The fine is the largest ever issued by the Federal Communications Commission.
Abramovich made up caller identification to match the area code and first three digits of the recipients’ phone numbers. When they answered, however, an automated message prompted them to “Press 1” to hear about “exclusive” vacation deals from well-known travel companies like Marriott, Expedia, Hilton and TripAdvisor, according to the FCC. Consumers who pressed the button were transferred to foreign call centers where live operators attempted to sell the packages, which were not affiliated with the companies mentioned in the recorded message.
Between October 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, Abramovich used several faux marketing companies he owns and manages to make about one million unwanted calls every day and almost 44,000 per hour.
None of his “companies” listed by the FCC could be reached for comment Friday.
The calls violated a law against deliberately falsifying caller ID, the agency said. Of the alleged 96 million spoof calls, the penalty is based on 80,000 calls the FCC hand-verified.
After receiving complaints from travel companies and recipients alike, the FCC traced the calls back to Abramovich.
“I have daily – sometimes multiple times [a] day – inbound spoofed calls purporting to be from [Marriott],” one consumer told the FCC.
“It’s unbelievably infuriating. . . . All of them are a recording to either to redeem a Marriott vacation or to refinance my credit card debt,” another reported.
“I always hang up when I [hear] the cheesy auto voice, but even when I miss the call I am miffed that my cell phone is getting clogged from “missed call” notifications from these scumbags!” one reported. “They always have the same area code and first three digits as my own cell phone . . . please track down these jerks!”
During the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s review of the calls, they learned that some consumers paid hundreds of dollars for vacations different from the ones presented to them. Abramovich’s scheme also disrupted an emergency medical paging service used by first responders.
By overloading the paging network, Abramovich had a direct effect on those in need, making the crime “particularly abhorrent,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said.
“Mr. Abramovich could have delayed vital medical care, making the difference between a patient’s life and death,” he said.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau also issued a citation to Abramovich for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall limits and the federal wire fraud statute. If these violations continue, he may be subject to additional fines.
Abramovich could not be reached for comment as of early Friday.
Although Abramovich’s scheme was much larger than most, it’s still just a fraction of the 2.6 billion robocalls reported to the FCC in the month of May.
“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. “We each have a serious and potentially dangerous problem on our hands.”