Diasporian News of Thursday, 26 May 2011

Source: theStar

Toronto Police arrest six in identity theft operation

....allegedly linked to Ghana

Peel, Gr Toronto, Canada -- Peel police say they've cracked a crime network that allegedly used the faces of real people to make fake identity cards used to open phony bank and credit accounts.

The accounts were used to cash stolen cheques and bilk companies of more than $500,000, Inspector Colleen Fawcett said Wednesday.

Proceeds of the illicit scheme were used to make land purchases in the African nation of Ghana, she said.

Six people, including a Brampton couple accused of being the ringleaders of the operation, have been arrested following a seven-month investigation. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a seventh.

Detectives released few details about how the scam organizers found people willing to let their photos be used on fake cards and then go into financial institutions to create the false accounts.

Const. Mike Plante would say only that the alleged “runners” were “down and out” people who were paid a fee for their faces.

“They're the ones who actually go into the financial institutions, carry all the fraudulent documents and open the bank accounts and deposit the cheques,” he explained.

The alleged ringleaders would then withdraw all the money and manage the accounts, Plante said.

He said high-tech copying and printing make it easy for criminals to produce phony documents, putting police at a disadvantage.

“We always seem to be behind the eight ball, we're always trying to play catch up in our investigations,” Plante said. “Fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada, especially in the identity theft side of it.”

Once a fake identity card is made, it can be used to get credit, to vote, “free reign to be whoever we want to be, instead of who we really are.”

Plante urged people to monitor their mail for bills and documents that may be delayed.

“Be very diligent,” he said. “With the theft of mail, these documents can fall into the wrong hands.”

He also warned of sophisticated “phishing scams,” calls from criminals pretending to be from reputable companies asking for personal information, which lead to identity theft.