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‘Piggy banks for them:’ Police crack down on fake Ontario bank accounts

Toronto Police say they have cracked down on a scheme where hundreds of bank accounts with fake names were opened by one person.

In a press conference on Monday, Det. David Coffey of the financial crimes unit alleges the accused used “synthetic identities” to defraud banks.

“The synthetic identities can be used to create essentially piggy banks for them,” Coffey said. “They are applying for credit cards. They are applying for lines of credit. They are opening bank accounts which they can funnel money in and out of.”

“They are essentially applying for unlimited amounts of credit in fictional synthetic names.”

He alleges the IDs used, such as permanent resident cards and Ontario driver’s licences, were fraudulently manufactured.

“Multiple cards had the same face but different names and those names are synthetic — people who do not exist,” he said.

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The investigation began in October 2022 and was dubbed Project Deja Vu after one financial institution released a report that found several fake accounts were opened by one person who had previously worked at the company, Coffey said. He did not say which financial institution that was but said most of them were affected by the same scheme.

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Coffey said the scheme had actually begun in 2016 when more than 680 unique synthetic identities were created by a handful of people.

Photo of synthetic identity fraud documents. Provided / Toronto Police

Many of them were used to apply for and open hundreds of bank accounts and credit amounts at various banks and financial institutions across Ontario, he said.

The fraudulently obtained accounts were then drawn upon by way of in-store and online purchases, cash withdrawals or e-transfers, Coffey said.

To this date, Coffey said the scheme has resulted in about $4 million in losses.

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“Ultimately, the damages are being paid by the complainants which are the financial institutions,” he said. “So they’re the ones losing the money.”

Coffey also alleges the synthetic identities were known to facilitate other serious criminals offences such as laundering proceeds of crime from human trafficking, drug trafficking and armed robbery.

Police have arrested 12 people, most of them from the Greater Toronto Area, who face a combined 102 charges in connection with the fraud.

Charges include fraud, forgery, uttering a forged document, and laundering proceeds of crime among.

Coffey said there are other cases where fraudulent IDs would mix in some real elements such as actual names or SIN numbers from people but in this investigation they were completely made up.

Photo of synthetic identity fraud documents. Provided / Toronto Police

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