February 12, 2020
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The FCC has proposed a $120 million fine for a Florida man who the commission alleges made nearly 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period, some of which hit a paging network used by hospitals, EMTs, and doctors, disrupting its service.
The investigation into the robocall operation began last year after the FCC received a number of complaints from consumers about calls to numbers that were on the Do Not Call list. The calls usually were selling some sort of travel service and purported to represent major travel brands, such as Marriott or TripAdvisor. The commission began looking into the calls and eventually traced them back to a company called Marketing Strategy Leaders, operated by Adrian Abramovich, according to the FCC’s citation and order.
The FCC subpoenaed three months worth of phone records from the company and discovered that the company made more than 96 million robocalls during the period, many of which used caller ID spoofing. While the vast majority of the calls went to wireless phones, some of them targeted a wireless paging network for medical personnel operated by a company called Spōk Inc.
“Service outages, slowdowns, or other problems caused by robocalls flooding an emergency medical pager network constitute a serious risk to public safety because they interfere with critical hospital and emergency room communications. In December 2015, Spōk contacted the Commission to report and complain about a significant robocalling event that was disrupting its emergency medical paging service.26 From the information provided by Spōk, the Commission traced the calls to Adrian Abramovich through his company, Marketing Strategy Leaders,” the FCC citation says.
The robocall operation violated both FCC rules and the provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that prohibit prerecorded voice messages and autodialed calls to emergency service lines, wireless phones, and landlines. A key part of the scheme that the FCC says Abramovich oversaw was the use of caller iD spoofing to make it appear that the calls were coming from the same area code and exchange as the recipient.
“Mr. Abramovich apparently 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 FCC said in a statement on the case.
The $120 million fine proposed by the FCC would be the largest levied against a robocall operation.
CC By-sa license image by Fe Ilya