The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $120 million fine for a scheme that appeared to trick consumers into buying vacation packages that were not what they had expected.
The agency said Thursday that Miami resident Adrian Abramovich, through his companies, made calls that were faked to appear as though they were from the same area code as the people who were dialed. That local touch could persuade more people to pick up the phone.
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People who did answer the phone heard a recording saying they could get a vacation package from well-known travel companies like Marriott, Expedia, Hilton and TripAdvisor. Instead, they got transferred to a call center where salespeople pushed low-quality travel deals, often related to timeshares, that were unaffiliated with the brands in the prerecorded message at the start of the call.
The agency said Abramovich's companies made nearly 97 million robocalls from October-December 2016, and were spewing out "mass-robocalling" operations in both 2015 and 2016. The agency said these calls also interfered with a hospital paging service by slowing down its network.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said that the $120 million penalty is the largest in the agency's history.
The AP was not immediately able to reach Abramovich.