Imagine working hard your entire life and building a large amount of savings, only for someone to steal your identity and empty your bank account. Toronto police said that is what an “organized hierarchy” of fraudsters were doing to unsuspecting victims in the Greater Toronto Area.
Police said that this group, which ranged from “low-level identity thieves to counterfeit identification makers and distributors” committed millions of dollars of theft and fraud.
Inspector Peter Callaghan said the group was “purchasing identity information and producing identity documents and either opening bank accounts in financial institutions, or taking over bank accounts.” The group apparently also stole and tampered with tens of thousands of gift cards.
The investigation began in September 2021 and is ongoing.
So far, police have arrested four people between the ages of 25 and 46. The individuals are charged with nearly 100 theft and fraud charges.
Police allege over 37,000 stolen and tampered with gift cards have been recovered, as well as $70,000 in cash and a Porsche valued at $100,000.
Police are reminding citizens to protect their personal information, and keep a close eye on their mail to make sure it’s not being stolen.
Detective David Coffey stated that “there’s multiple ways which identities are being compromised” and “One of the things that they do is they reroute your mail to a separate mail box giving them access to your accounts.”
To reduce the risk of becoming a victim, Toronto police provided the following tips:
- never send your personal financial information through online sourced or over the phone
- shred personal information before tossing it in the garbage or recycling
- never share your passwords with anyone
- don’t click on link’s on text messages or emails from unsolicited sources.
- be careful of postal mail not arriving as before, identity thieves can change the address
- only carry your identification if you absolutely need it and secure the rest at home
- regularly check your credit rating with Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada
- when purchasing a gift card, check the receipt at time of purchase and compare data on receipt to the numbers on the card
- If you receive a or buy a gift card physically examine it for signs of tampering
- try to use a gift card immediately after you get it
- avoid buying gift cards online or checking gift card balances on sites that are not the store’s official website
This article was originally sourced by toronto.citynews.ca.