The Federal Communications Commission is proposing the largest fine in its history, $120 million, on an alleged robocall scammer after a Massachusetts-based travel company tipped it off to the scheme.
The FCC alleges that the scammer is Adrian Abramovich, who orchestrated a robocall operation that made 96 million calls during a three-month period late last year. The calls would offer fake travel and vacation deals, using Trip Advisor’s name, in an attempt to fleece consumers, the FCC said in a statement.
The Needham-based TripAdvisor tipped off federal authorities in 2016 after consumers complained to the company about receiving robocalls offering travel deals, according to a statement from the FCC. TripAdvisor, according to the FCC, investigated those complaints independently and identified Abramovich as the source.
“The calls ultimately connected Americans to call centers in Mexico that usually attempted to fleece innocent consumers out of their hard-earned money by promising too-good-to-be-true vacation deals,” Adam Medros , a senior vice president for TripAdvisor, said in a statement.
Abramovich also used the names of other travel and hospitality companies, including Expedia, Marriot, and Hilton in the scam, according to the FCC.
The FCC said Abramovich used a technique known as “neighbor spoofing” to gain the trust of consumers. In such a scheme, the scammer makes the local area code and the first three digits of the recipient’s phone number appear on the targeted consumer’s caller ID, authorities said.
Abramovich’s scheme, according to the FCC, violates a law that prohibits “callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with the intent to harm or defraud consumers.”