Complex Cross-Provincial Fraud Ring Discovered, 33 People Charged

3 June 2015

In one of the biggest Canadian fraud arrests in recent memory, police have charged 33 people believed to be involved in a far-reaching organized crime ring with more than 200 fraud offences. These crimes are estimated to have caused a loss of more than $2 million in total for both financial institutions and individuals.

The crime ring was discovered by a joint team of police departments from across the country in an investigation known as “Operation Springston”. The investigation started in Hamilton, Ontario, then expanded as neighboring police departments began to realize they were receiving very similar identity theft complaints. As the wide scope of the ring was discovered, the RCMP and the Canadian Banking Association joined the investigation as well.

The police say the criminals’ main techniques involved gaining access to people’s accounts through phishing and malware, then using the stolen information they acquired to apply for bank cards and have cheques sent to them in their victims’ names. While these scams seem to have originated mainly in the Hamilton, Halton and Greater Toronto areas, the crime ring has been implicated in instances of fraud ranging as far as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Quebec.

The investigation was responsible for taking down a major player in the criminal world, according to the police. Last week, while executing a search warrant in Toronto, police discovered a massive fraudulent ID lab that was being used to transform the stolen identities into ID cards that could be used to gain access to victims’ bank accounts. The man who ran it is being described in the media as a “freelance forger” who created “excellent” forged IDs. He was apparently selling his services to several criminal organizations.

“It’s a significant blow not only to this organization, but also to anyone who used him,” said Det. Sgt. Rob Krzyzaniak of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Identity Crimes Unit.

The raid of the forger’s lab resulted in the seizure of large amounts of fake ID manufacturing equipment and supplies and about $30,000 in cash.

“Gone are the days when you needed a huge space with a giant industrial printing press,” Krzyzaniak said.

It’s unclear whether the hundreds of people who lost money due to the crime ring’s activity will be reimbursed for their losses or not. Investigators in the case are urging people across the country to be especially vigilant about phishing and malware, warning them not to click on links in emails even if they seem to come from a reputable financial institution.

According to Halton Police Superintendent Martin Power, the victims of the crime ring have been shaken by the idea that their identity has been stolen.

“The victims definitely feel violated,” Power told the CBC. “Someone has taken their lives away.”

Keeping track of activity on your credit file can help you realize earlier on if someone has accessed your accounts or committed credit fraud against you. Signing up for a credit monitoring service will allow you to get alerted when certain activities take place that may indicate fraud.