FCC fine of $120M for almost 100 million robocalls in three months

Daniel Fowler
May 11, 2018

Over a three-month period, the FCC says that Abramovich made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls. The FCC argued that Abramovich's operation made the phony calls to trick consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages.

The calls used caller ID "spoofing" that mimicks the first six digits of the recipient's phone number, a practice dubbed "neighbor spoofing", the complaint added.

"Tough enforcement is a key part of the FCC's robust strategy for combating illegal robocalls, and this Forfeiture Order represents a big step forward in our enforcement efforts", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said on Thursday. This practice is illegal partly because federal officials maintain that victims are far more likely to pick up a call if it appears to be coming from their local neighborhood.

In response to the proposed fine, Mr. Abramovich claimed that he had no intent to cause harm, and that the proposed forfeiture amount was unconstitutional.

"Friendly visitors don't wear disguises to mask who they are", Pai wrote.

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The FCC said in June "Abramovich is the perpetrator of one of the largest - and most risky - illegal robocalling campaigns that the Commission has ever investigated". Medical paging provider Spōk also helped with the FCC's investigation, because the robocallers' operation disrupted hospital and physician communications. The messages indicated that the calls came from well-known travel or hospitality companies such as Marriott, Expedia, Hilton, and TripAdvisor, and prompted consumers to "Press 1" to hear about "exclusive" vacation deals. After answering the calls, people were redirected to foreign call centers that attempted to sell timeshares and vacation packages.

With these cheap services and software, nearly anyone can plug in and play in the robocalling game, Abramovich said.

Abramovich told a Senate panel in April that he was "not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged".

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said a year ago "Americans are mad as hell" at robocalls and the agency gets more than 200,000 complaints annually.

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