Four men, a woman and a teenage boy are collectively facing over 260 identity theft and fraud charges in connection with a taxi fare scam investigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Police say customers would get into various taxi cabs during the evening and early morning hours and when they would attempt to pay with either a debit or credit card, the drivers would allegedly hand the customers a Point of Sale machine.
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When the customers enter their PIN information, an error message would pop up on the machine and the transaction would show up as not properly processed.
The driver would then ask for the machine back to fix the issue and then swap the customer’s debit or credit card with a fake card and the transaction would go forward without an issue.
Police said the driver would then go to the bank where the card is from, take the PIN information captured from the altered Point of Sale machine and then either the driver or another person waiting at the bank would withdraw money from an ATM.
The customer’s funds are then depleted from their account, while the customer usually had no knowledge of the fraud until either the bank notified them or they tried to use the card that was given to them by the driver at a later date.
According to police, on December 19, search warrants were issued at multiple addresses in the city and a point of sale machine was recovered, along with financial documents, mail and personal banking information relating to the identity theft victims.
Between December 19 and January 15, police say six suspects were arrested.
The suspects now face a total of 262 fraud-related charges, including identity theft, possession of property obtained by crime and fraud over $5,000.
Alex Ghakhar, 22, and Adam Ghakhar 22, Mohammad Sarwar, 25, Tracy Begley, 48, and a 16-year-old boy who cannot be named have been arrested in connection to the taxi fare fraud.
Police say there are a number of taxi fare scans occurring in the city and there are still outstanding individuals actively defrauding customers.
Customers are being advised to never leave their card unattended inside a Point of Sale machine at any time, to be aware of cab numbers and company names, and to always remove their card from the machine when handing it back to the driver.