June 15, 2024

The Toronto police have reported the arrest of 12 individuals, collectively facing 102 charges, in relation to a significant credit card fraud investigation.

These charges were reported on Monday during a briefing on the investigation into Project Déjà Vu. According to investigators, this case is an instance of “synthetic-identity fraud.”

Financial Crimes Unit Detective David Coffey explained that synthetic-identity fraud is a variant of financial deception where fabricated personal identities are employed to commence accounts with businesses and financial establishments.

Detective Coffey revealed that this investigation was launched in October 2022 following a report by a financial establishment. It identified numerous artificial accounts, with the startling discovery that these were suspected to have been created by a previous company employee.

“These fraudsters, whose activities have been traced back to 2016, are accused of creating over 680 unique synthetic identities. They used these to open hundreds of bank and credit accounts across various Ontario-based financial institutions,” Detective Coffey disclosed.

He further explained, “The illegitimately obtained credit accounts were exploited through in-store and online purchases, cash disbursements, or electric fund transfers.”

The photo above signifies synthetic-identity documents confiscated during the fraud probe (Link Courtesy: Toronto Police Service).

Detective Coffey said that in certain instances, the fraudsters made deceptive payments into these accounts to further their withdrawals beyond the set limits.

Approximately $4 million in losses were authenticated by the police.

Detective Coffey stated that in the course of the investigation, 20 search warrants were executed.

“From the search warrants, TPS was able to locate and confiscate several synthetic identities, electronic templates for forged identification, and counterfeit documents,” he explained.

He also emphasized that several hundred debit and credit cards were seized, together with about $300,000 in both Canadian and foreign currencies.

“This isn’t merely about deception,” Coffey said to the reporters. “These falsely acquired accounts are often used to facilitate other serious criminal acts like human trafficking, drug trafficking, and armed robberies, among other grave offences.”

He stated that while these financial institutions have established security measures against fraud, they are not always successful.

“Fraudsters are quite adept and technologically skilled. Their counterfeit IDs appear credible, which often bypasses the security measures set by financial institutions,” he added. “Unfortunately, not all fraudulent activity gets detected even with these measures.”

Detective Coffey postulates that there are still unidentified victims and suspects and the investigation will continue.

“Given the number of identities, we suspect there are more victims and encourage them to contact us directly,” he concluded.