Have you ever gotten a phone call from a number that looked very similar to your own, only to pick up and realize it’s a robocall trying to sell you something?
If you have, you’re not alone. This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) slapped its largest fines ever on a Florida man it says is responsible for more than 96 million of those dreaded robocalls.
Adrian Abramovich, the Miami man behind the scheme, was ordered to pay a $120 million fine this week as punishment for scamming millions of people with more than 96 million robocalls over a three-month period in 2016.
While robocalls themselves aren’t illegal, it is illegal to “spoof” caller ID information, which is exactly what the FCC says Abramovich did. He spoofed area codes as well as the first three digits of phone numbers in order to disguise the calls as legitimate calls from local numbers.
Unsuspecting people would pick up what they thought was a legitimate call only to be greeted with a pre-recorded messages trying to sell timeshares or other vacation packages.
Oddly enough, it was TripAdvisor that tipped off the FCC about Abramovich. The travel company had launched its own investigation into the calls after hearing complaints that its name was being used to sell the vacation packages. Their investigation traced the calls back to the company managed by Abramovich.
But what’s most shocking is the sheer scale of the operation. His firm was linked to at least 96,758,223 calls in a single three-month period in 2016. It was, according to the FCC, “one of the largest spoofed robocall campaigns that the Commission has ever investigated.”
The historic $120 million fine is the largest to ever brought by the FCC, according to a statement from FCC commissioner Ajit Pai.
“Our decision sends a loud and clear message: 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.”