Teenage boy arrested as part of ongoing Toronto taxi scam investigation

A 14-year-old boy has been arrested in part of an ongoing taxi scam investigation in which unsuspected victims are approached for help on the streets of Toronto.

In a statement issued Wednesday, TPS said two individuals are alleged to have worked together to steal debit and credit cards from individuals.

They said one suspect poses as a driver, while the other poses as a customer.

The two suspects are alleged to pretend to “have an argument over the cab driver not accepting cash,” after which the so-called customer approaches an unsuspecting victim and asks them to pay for the cab fare with their card in exchange for the cash.

If the victim complies and makes the payment, police say the driver will enter the card into a modified point-of-sale terminal, and, while the victim is distracted by the second suspect, switch the card for another.

Police say the terminals record the victim’s card data, along with their PIN allowing the suspects to make fraudulent transactions with the victim’s card. 

On Oct. 17, police got a call reporting a taxi cab had allegedly been involved in a similar occurrence at a mall parking lot near Markham Road and Lawrence Avenue East in Toronto.

Police attended the scene, located the vehicle, and arrested a 14-year-old boy. He was charged with one count of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.

As with any minor charged with a crime, the boy’s identity remains protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

WOMAN NEARLY FELL VICTIM TO SAME SCAM

When Saja Kilani was stopped by a young man in downtown Toronto on Oct. 16 claiming to need assistance, she says it was her instinct to help the boy.

“He seemed very desperate and he looked young,” Kilani told CTV News Toronto Tuesday.

Kilani, a model and actress from Toronto, says the boy, who she says appeared around 15 years old, stopped her and asked if she could pay for his taxi fare with a card. She says he informed her the cab company only took cards, and that all he had was cash.

“He had the cash on him,” Kilani said. “It seemed like a fair situation.”

So, Kilani says she agreed to help the boy and headed to the cab to make the payment.

During the transaction, Kilani says she noticed something awry.

“I could see from the corner of my eye that [the driver] placed my card between his legs and he pretended to work the machine,” she said.

The driver returned the machine, card inserted, and Kilani made the payment, but when she pulled the card out, she says she noticed someone else’s name on the card and realized she’d been scammed.

“I leaned into his car […] and I said, ‘This is not my card. I see what you’re trying to do. I found my card between your legs. Give it to me,’” Kilani said.

She says the man eventually relented and returned her card, but not before the boy jumped into the car with the driver, the two of them put their masks on and drove away.

Saja Kilani

TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS

Toronto police is encouraging anyone who may have fallen victim to a scam, or has any information pertaining to this investigation, to contact them.

Meanwhile, they said residents should not leave their debit or credit cards unattended inside a Point of Sale terminal anywhere, and that they should try and be aware of taxi numbers, company names, and driver identification when patroning a cab company.

When making any payment with a debit or credit terminal, TPS recommends covering your fingers while entering your pin. 

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