The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $120 million fine against a Florida man accused of making 96 million spoofed robocalls during a three-month period last year.
FCC wants alleged robocall scammer to pay up
According to an FCC news release, Adrian Abramovich of Miami violated the Truth in Caller ID Act, a law that prohibits callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with the intent to harm or defraud people.
Here’s how it all went down: Consumers received calls that appeared to come from local numbers. If they picked up, they heard an automated message prompting them to “Press 1” to hear about “exclusive” vacation deals from companies like Marriott, Expedia, Hilton and TripAdvisor. Anyone who pressed the button got transferred to foreign call centers that were not affiliated with those well-known travel companies at all. Live operators would then try to sell the consumers low-quality vacation packages, usually involving timeshares.
Unfortunately, many Americans took the bait. The FCC said the operation typically targeted the elderly. Some consumers spent from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on the vacation packages.
Abramovich is believed to have used the tactic known as “neighbor spoofing.” It takes place when the caller falsifies the caller ID to match the area code and first three digits of the recipient’s phone number. Scammers use neighbor spoofing to gain the trust of those receiving the call and increase the likelihood of them answering.
The FCC also issued a citation to Abramovich for apparent violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall limits and the federal wire fraud statute.
Clark’s bottom line
It’s not always easy to tell if an incoming call is spoofed, so Clark recommends that you don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If it’s someone you know, they’ll leave a message and you can call them back.
Here are some additional tips from the FCC’s website:
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- 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.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
If you get a suspicious phone call, follow this link to report it to the FCC online.