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TripAdvisor’s internal security and Internet fraud team usually busies itself probing sketchy user reviews from the hotel or restaurant competitor down the street or credit card abuse, but the investigators played a key role in helping the U.S. Federal Communications Commission track down an alleged travel-robocall scam that led to potentially the largest enforcement action in the regulator’s history.
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday announced that Adrian Abramovich and his companies Marketing Strategy Leaders and Marketing Leaders face a $120 million fine — the largest in the regulator’s history — for allegedly making nearly 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period to American and Canadian consumers erroneously touting deceptive and non-existent vacation packages and other travel deals supposedly from the likes of TripAdvisor, Marriott, Hilton, Expedia and others.
Abramovich’s companies would use pre-recorded messages touting vacation packages from Marriott, TripAdvisor and others, and when consumers pressed “1” or another option on their phones they would be connected with call centers in Mexico that offered deceptive vacation packages or ones that didn’t even exist.
The FCC cited Abramovich “for apparent violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall limits and federal wire fraud statute.”
“These robocall marketing scams were intrusive, annoying and — for some people — incessant,” said Adam Medros, TripAdvisor senior vice president of product, in a statement. “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.”
Medros noted that the scammers had targeted virtually the entire travel industry — not just TripAdvisor.