Mass-market text fraud linked to forgery
Two individuals have been charged with nine counts of forgery as a result of an investigation into a sophisticated mass-market text fraud. The nine-month investigation was carried out by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) London Financial Crime Unit, working in partnership with the Toronto Police Service Financial Crime Unit.
The investigation began in January 2016 when the RCMP was alerted by HCM Staffing Solutions that forged cheques bearing their company’s logo were being deposited by victims in relation to a “Secret-Shopper” fraud. The investigation uncovered a one-stop shop for sending text solicitations and forging cheques, all contained in a single bedroom of an Etobicoke, Ont., apartment building.
The seized equipment was capable of sending out 96,000 texts per day to random Canadians attempting to victimize them. For those who responded, the shop was able to custom-forge a cheque from a variety of large Canadian businesses. The victims were then persuaded to deposit the money into their own bank account. Once the cheque was deposited, victims wired money to the accused’s overseas confederates; when the bank discovered the forgery, it was the victim who had to repay the money.
“The RCMP is committed to protecting the financial integrity of Canada and keeping Canadians safe from criminal organizations who victimize them from behind a computer screen. This investigation highlights the importance of domestic police services collaborating together to identify, apprehend and bring to court ever more sophisticated criminals,” Insp Joe Czenze, Officer in Charge, London Detachment, said in a press release.
Police estimate that each 96,000 text message send-out could result in approximately $400,000 being stolen from Canadians.
The companies whom Obakore and Sophia AKPONAH prejudiced with their forgeries, such as HCM Staffing Solutions, Goeasy Ltd, and Ivari Insurance among other reputable Canadian companies have stated they do not participate in direct mailings of cheques to persons, nor do they solicit secret-shoppers via text message. Anyone who receives a cheque in the mail is urged to contact the company purported to have issued it to confirm its authenticity prior to depositing it.
The RCMP has charged the following Obakore Akponah and Sophia Akponah with forgery.