WATCH: 62 people arrested in counterfeit TTC metropass scheme. Carey Marsden reports.
TORONTO – Sixty-two people have been arrested and charged with a total of 196 offences, accused of either using or selling counterfeit TTC metropasses.
But the investigation is ongoing and police believe that the fake cards are being made locally – though exactly where, they’re not sure.
Arrests were made at locations across the TTC network with the most taking place at the Scarborough Town Centre, police Const. Bob Moynagh said.
“The majority of the people that were arrested for trafficking the fake passes, it appears, they were just a social network of friends,” he said.
The investigation began in November after the TTC received a number of tips from bus and streetcar drivers as well as anonymous tips to their customer service line and Crime Stoppers.
Police were able to make the arrests by infiltrating the network and buying the counterfeit passes. The majority of those arrested were charged with using the passes, while seven of the 62 were charged with trafficking.
What’s the TTC doing to stop counterfeit fares?
The arrests come as part of an ongoing investigation by the police and TTC in response to a gradual increase in counterfeit fares since wide-scale arrests in 2009.
“The TTC takes fare evasion and the counterfeiting of its fare extremely seriously,” executive director of communications for the TTC Brad Ross said Wednesday.
“You will be caught, as the 62 arrests and 196 criminal charges today will attest.”
The TTC is taking steps to make fare evasion more difficult and stem the $5-million revenue loss from counterfeit fares. Some of those steps include Presto Passes, special constable status for transit officers and transit officers to check proof of payment.
Exact numbers of fake metropasses are hard to determine; unlike counterfeit tokens, the TTC doesn’t collect used metropasses and can’t put a firm number on how many went unnoticed.
Staff Sgt. Mark Russell said the TTC receives between 150 and 200 reports of counterfeit passes each month but believes that could be a fraction of the counterfeit material available.
“If we’re getting 150 or 200 reports, at a very conservative level that’s probably 10 per cent of what’s out there,” he said.
How to spot a fake TTC metropass
There are several ways to identify a fake metropass, and officials say the first question to ask is “is the deal too good to be true?”
“If a deal sounds too good to be true, for example a $50 metropass for sale online, then that deal is probably too good to be true,” Ross said, adding that metropasses do not go on sale.
And Russell pointed out some small but noticable differences between real metropasses and the counterfeit material recovered.
“Authentic passes are glossy on one side and have a flat finish on the back,” he said. “All the counterfeits we’ve encountered so far are glossy on both sides.”
He also pointed out that there is a “feel test.” He said the serial numbers and price printed on authentic passes are printed on separately with a “raised ink” that feels different than the fakes.
But the easiest way to find out whether that cheap metropass is real or a fraud is to try and use it. TTC officials say none of the counterfeit passes have been able to trick the turnstiles at TTC stations.
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