Montréal, November 19, 2013 – This morning, the RCMP arrested 15 individuals working in an alleged call centre in downtown Montréal. It is believed that these individuals were involved in mass marketing fraud activity. Based on the investigation carried out in partnership with the American authorities, the fraud is estimated at over $20 million with thousands of victims in the United States and Canada.
Led by the investigators of the Centre of Operations Linked to Telemarketing Fraud (COLT), with the assistance of the Sûreté du Québec and the Montréal and Châteauguay Police Services, the objective of today’s operation was to disrupt the activities of this fraud network.
Initiated by the RCMP in November 2011, the investigation targets an individual who was the subject of several complaints for fraud. The investigation suggests that the funds illegally obtained from the victims were cashed in by the suspect through his own money transfer and communication services company. The investigators suspect that this individual was also laundering the funds from the victims in various countries, including for the benefit of other scammer networks.
Various schemes were used, mainly the "grandson" scam, but also the "lottery", "heritage", "employment", and "bogus cheques" type schemes. The victims sent their money through money transfer services such as Money Gram, Western Unionand others.
At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Homeland Security(ICE) conducted an investigation targeting a group of individuals allegedly using the Yellow Pages scam to bill fake invoices. Evidence gathered as part of this investigation provided direct links between the boiler room in Montréal and the company owned by the individual suspected by the RCMP. It is also believed that this individual received a share of the money taken from victims in the Yellow Pages scam.
The investigation by the American authorities reveals that since 2011, over 5,000 companies, schools, and religious groups in the United Stated have been defrauded of nearly $12 million. The Yellow Pages scam consists in using shell companies to sell ads in the Yellow Pages and collect the money by sending fake invoices. In fact, no service is ever provided.
COLT and its partners focus on prevention and education to proactively fight mass marketing fraud and raise public awareness. If you want to report a fraud, or if you need more information, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you have information on illicit activity by individuals or groups involved in fraud scams, contact the RCMP at 1 800 771-5401 or your local police.