The US Federal Communications Commission said TripAdvisor played a key role in bringing a flood of illegal robocalls to a halt.
The FCC proposed a $120 million fine against a Florida resident who apparently made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls pretending to be major travel companies.
The commission said Adrian Abramovich of Miami violated the Truth in Caller ID Act by using a technique known as “neighbor spoofing:” falsifying caller IDs to match the area code and first three digits of the recipient’s phone number.
Crooks think that consumers are more likely to answer calls if they believe they are coming from within their neighborhoods.
Callers who answered heard a recorded message instructing them to “press 1’ to hear about “exclusive” vacation deals from TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hilton or Marriott; those who did were connected to foreign call centers where live operators attempted to sell vacation packages, often involving timeshares.
The packages were not related to the well-known travel companies.
After TripAdvisor received numerous complaints about the calls, it independently investigated these complaints and identified Abramovich as the source.
In a statement, Adam Medros, senior vice president of product at TripAdvisor, said:
Knowing that consumers were being defrauded while thinking they were purchasing from brands like ours that they trusted, TripAdvisor’s legal team and our internal team of security and Internet fraud investigators commenced a lengthy and detailed effort to see if we could help stop the scams.These robocall marketing scams were intrusive, annoying and – for some people – incessant. 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.
The size of the fine, believed to be a record, was due to Abramovich’s diligence in generating the robocalls. The proposed amount was based on 80,000 spoofed calls that have been verified, the FCC said.