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Toronto victims bilked out of $5M in new phone scam

Last Updated Feb 9, 2018 at 12:13 pm EDT

Toronto police are concerned about a new version of a phone scam making the rounds that has bilked five people out of more than $5 million.

The Financial Crimes Unit said the latest incarnation involves the intended victim being called by someone claiming to be working at a retail store. The victims are told to call 911 to alert police of a credit card fraud that is supposedly in progress. The victim may also be told to call their bank.

When the victim hangs up to make the calls, they’re under the impression the person on the other end has hung up but that other person is actually still on the line and poses as the 911 operator or bank employee.

“The victim believes that they have contacted 911, or their financial institution, but, in fact, they have been redirected to an imposter,” Det.-Sgt. Ian Nichol explained.

“The supposed call taker will speak to the victim and connect them to yet another imposter posing as a police investigator or as a bank investigator — either by connecting them directly or asking them to hang up and call the number on the back of their bank card.”

Nichol said the victim is then informed by the imposter of an impending investigation and are urged to go to their bank and transfer money, usually via wire transfer, to a specific account that they believe is intended to safeguard their funds until the investigation is complete.

The scheme appears to target people with landlines.

Investigators said the five victims who are the focus of this investigation are in Toronto, but there’s evidence this scheme is being conducted across the country and that hundreds of thousands of people have been targeted.

Nichol said there’s evidence that, in some cases, the caller may already have some of the victim’s financial information and that the phone calls may vary slightly.

Police would like to remind the public that 911 is for emergencies only and an operator would not transfer a caller to an investigator. As well, police say banks would never advise a customer to transfer funds to another, outside operation, for financial security.