Mounties smash massive identity-theft ring

Published 3 March 2008

Royal Canadian Mounted Police discover thousands of stolen and forged credit cards, licences, passports, personal records — and printing and embossing machines to manufacture IDs, passports, and print forged money; largest such ring in Canadian history

Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have uncovered an identity-theft ring that may have affected hundreds of thousands of people. On 12 February the combined forces identity-theft team searched a house in Surrey and turned up a massive haul of stolen personal information and equipment used to manufacture fake identification and credit cards. The Surrey RCMP are calling it the largest seizure ever made by the identity-theft team. The Toronto Globes and Mail’s Leslie Young writes that more than 500 credit cards, 100 driver’s licences, 2,400 pieces of mail dating as far back as 1998, hundreds of tax returns, Insurance Corporation of B.C. vehicle records, international passports, more than 75 health cards, and many cheques and money orders were seized. Police also found debit terminals, card readers, card embossers, and other materials used to make phony cards, including piles of plastic blanks and magnetic strips. They also found counterfeit money and equipment used to create $20 and $50 bills.

Police are particularly worried about more than 100 CDs that they believe contain personal data profiles, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and social insurance numbers, income, and employer information and names of spouses and children. One CD is labeled as containing 20,000 profiles. It will take time for police to analyze the data. “While it is two weeks since the search warrant was executed, with one CD containing roughly 20,000 personal profiles, we’ve got a long road ahead of us to try and figure out what is taking place,” said Sergeant Roger Morrow of the Surrey RCMP.

Police are making a catalogue of individuals whose personal information has been compromised and will attempt to contact them, but do not know when they will be able to reach them all. Police said the group collected and compiled personal data and manufactured forgeries to sell to others. “I certainly hope that that information has not been compromised or passed on and in the hands of others, but I can’t say with confidence,” said Sgt. Morrow. Police also found several Canada Post uniforms, satchels, and pounds of keys, at least some of which fit mailboxes. While police are not sure how exactly the uniforms were used, they believe that much of the data was stolen from mailboxes. They also believe that personal information was obtained through breaking and entering, vehicle thefts and found in dumpsters when businesses failed to shred documents and receipts properly.

No uniforms were ever reported missing, said Lillian Au of Canada Post. “As with any corporate or law enforcement property, occasionally pieces of Canada Post uniforms might be stolen from vehicles or from residences and used for illegal purposes,” she added. “Canada Post reinforces with its employees to be mindful of their uniform items at all times.” Au said that Canada Post is replacing all the locks on its mailboxes, a project begun in May 2006, and that the new locks and keys are extremely difficult to forge. The 2,400 pieces of stolen mail will be returned to customers after the investigation is complete, with a letter of explanation. Nine people were arrested during the police search.