Investigators with the York Regional Police Financial Crimes Unit have laid charges in connection with an investigation into taxi fare scams, dubbed Project Un-fare.
In the majority of incidents, officers often found that two suspects, operating together, pose as a taxi driver and a passenger. A victim is approached on the street or in a parking lot by the suspect posing as taxi passenger and asked for help.
The passenger suspect explains the cab driver will not accept cash due to COVID-19 protocols and requires a credit card payment instead. The passenger suspect offers the cash equivalent if the victim would help them by paying using their credit or debit card.
Once the victim agrees to assist, they are required to insert their card into a point of sale terminal that has been modified by the suspects and not actually activated on the network.
When the victim enters their PIN number, the data is captured on the terminal and when the victim is not looking, their card is switched and taken by the suspects. They are then handed back another card that looks similar to their own and they generally do not discover that until later.
The suspects then proceed to use the victim’s card withdrawing as much money or making purchases until discovered. The total amount lost by local victims in this scam is $50,000. The majority of incidents have occurred in front of shopping areas and in the parking lots of stores in Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham.
On March 29, investigators observed three suspects in the commission of this scam in Newmarket and arrested them leading to the recovery of 21 stolen credit cards, a falsified debit terminal and a victim’s identification which was returned.
Ayaaz Nathalia, 32, of Bowmanville, has been charged with three counts of fraud, possession of property obtained by crime, possession of identity documents and trafficking of identity documents.
Usman Gadeer Butt, 19, of Toronto, has been charged with three counts of fraud and possession of property obtained by crime.
Saeed Ahtsham, 26, of Toronto, has been charged with three counts of fraud, possession of property obtained by crime and four counts of breach of recognizance. C
York Regional Police is reminding citizens to be cautious of anyone asking for money in parking lots. You can help protect yourself by never handing over your credit or debit card for payment if asked by strangers.
If you have been a victim of a fraud, and have lost money, report the incident promptly to the York Regional Police Financial Crimes Unit either online at https://www.yrp.ca/en/online-reporting/Report-a-Crime.asp or by calling 1-866- 876-5423, ext. 6627.
To report frauds where no money has been lost, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.