A cold-calling salesman must pay a record-breaking fine of $120 million for making more than a million unsolicited phone calls a day.
Adrian Abramovich, of Miami, Florida, changed his caller ID to make his victims think they were receiving a local call.
In fact, answering the phone set off a recorded message purporting to offer a travel deal from a big brand, such as Hilton Hotels or TripAdvisor which turned out to be a scam luring people to speak to a call centre trying to sell them holidays or timeshares.
Abramovich claimed he was not a fraudster and had no intention of distressing anyone, but the US Federal Communications Commission, which polices cold-calling in the US, disagreed.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that the defence “isn’t very convincing.”
No one likes these calls
“Mr Abramovich doesn’t dispute that he was responsible for placing 96,758,223 robocalls during a three-month period in 2016,” he said.
“He doesn’t dispute that all these robocalls were made without the recipients’ consent.”
Pai added Abramovich had altered his caller ID, which is an offence in the States.
He said it was the “largest illegal robocalling scheme” the FCC had investigated, and the fine was “appropriate”.
“I haven’t met a single American who likes getting these kinds of robocalls,” said Pai.
Millions of complaints
Meanwhile, in Britain, new data from BT reveals 31 million cold calls were made by marketers in a week leading up to Christmas 2017.
More than 12 million calls were soliciting personal injury claims.
BT has a 40% market share of landlines in the country.
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says around 370 people a day complain about nuisance calls and half of those calls were about automated.
In separate news, Google has unveiled artificial intelligence software that will make phone calls for consumers, mainly to check if businesses are open and to book appointments.
The company also has crammed some new features into the Maps tool that overlays GPS data onto camera views from a smartphone.
“GPS alone doesn’t cut it,” said the company’s augmented reality chief Aparna Chennapragada.
“That’s why we’ve been working on what we call VPS – visual positioning system – that can estimate precise positioning and orientation [by using] visual features in the environment.”