Robocalls and Adrian Abramovich were in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons.
What are robocalls?
Robocalls are pre-recorded calls made by an automated system to people, who likely never solicited these calls.
Typically used during political campaigns, robocalls have recently garnered a lot of criticism and irritation – and possibly hatred – from the recipients of such calls. That’s because these calls are not easy to block or avoid and often lure and misguide recipients into buying something by vague promises.
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What went wrong with Adrian Abramovich’s company?
While the sales pitch of most robocalls stops just short of fraud, Adrian Abramovich’s company probably went a little too far.
A call-center would need a database of phone numbers to whom robocalls would be made. Phone numbers aren’t half as private as email addresses. But his company found a better way out.
The number from where his company made calls were “spoofed”. In spoofing, the software mimics the first five or six digits of the number being called.
A number that’s similar to yours in structure makes you feel someone from the neighborhood is making the call and that you’d better pick it up.
Let’s say your number is 999-1234-567. The software will mimic the digits so when the robocall is made, your screen displays 999-1235-588 as the calling number. You likely won’t ignore the call, since the number looks familiar and from within the nearby locality.
That brings a much better response to the robocalls.
Adrian Abramovich’s call center company got at least two things messed up:
- Excessive number of calls made: The busiest day logged a staggering 2,121,106 calls on a single day. That’s roughly one in every 150 US resident receiving a call – in a single day. No wonder people got annoyed and complaints poured into the FCC.
- Misrepresentation of brands: The pre-recorded message claimed to offer vacation deals from brands like Hilton, Marriott et all. These brands did not authorize these deals. Companies like TripAdvisor contacted the FCC in this regard.
Following are the likely steps Adrian Abramovich’s robocalls system went through:
- A phone-number software generates a list of possible phone numbers in the area, based on the number of pattern of the locality.
- The robocall system calls each of these numbers.
- When someone picks the robocall, a pre-recorded message makes a short but a powerful pitch on some wonderful deals from some big brands.
- The receiving person is then asked to “Press 1” to learn more about the exclusive deal.
- When the recipient presses 1, the phone is directed to a real tele-seller operator.
- The tele-seller takes over and entices the prospect in buying time share package. No prizes for guessing the big brands announced at the start of the robocall are nowhere present.
- Companies in Mexico paid Abramovich’s companies for the traffic they brough in.
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What Adrian Abramovic said in the Senate
Abramovich was asked to be present and testify in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing in April this year.
Speaking under subpoena, Abramovich declared he had been advised by his counsel not to answer any specific questions. However, Abramovich said, “I never misrepresented any of those hospitality companies, all the resorts are legitimate, all the vacations in everything was included there was no fraudulent activity the customers knew what packages they were purchasing.”
He further added, “There’s not a single complainant customer saying that they did not receive what they paid for.”
He also defended the system and said it was secure against any of kind of malpractices. “Once they [prospects] are explained about the vacations and the hotels [they] are gonna stay its all-inclusive and everything, the customer must submit a copy of the credit cards …if that document is not faxed back to the to the resort …the company they will eventually refund the money to their client. I mean it’s a must they must have a signature from the client accepting all the terms and conditions for these packages.
“If it’s in somehow maybe some age and might say something you know you know some we cannot control all these agents if in some cases if the client is not happy with the vocational or the services they may always call your credit card and get their money back.”
Any customer who felt she had been could easily get a cashback in his swagger, said Abrmovich. He implied there was no fraudulent practice in his company’s robocalls.
The FCC slaps a $120 million fine
“Abramovich is the perpetrator of one of the largest — and most dangerous — illegal robocalling campaigns that the Commission has ever investigated,” the FCC said.
In June 2017, the FCC named Abramovich in a complaint. The FCC alleged Abramovich had violated the Truth in Caller ID Act and misguided and tricked people who were called into believing they were receiving a genuine great deal from a great brand.
Additionally, the FCC pointed out unseen collateral damage. The immense number of robocalls likely crippled or jammed the entire telecom system.
“By overloading this paging network, Abramovich could have delayed vital medical care, making the difference between a patient’s life and death,” the agency said.
“It appears to have substantially disrupted the operations of an emergency medical paging provider,” the FCC chairman Ajit Pai explained. It put in risk the lives of patients who could not reach doctors in time due to the system overload.
The FCC chairman Ajit Pai further alleged that suspect targeted the elderly and had probably scammed thousands of dollars.
Accordingly, the FCC has slapped a US$ 120 million fine on Adrian Abramovich.
Over the past two decades, Adrian Abramovich is understood to have floated at least 12 corporations, many of which lasted only for a year. In more than one of these companies, he was the sole director.
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