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Dozens arrested for using or selling fake Toronto transit passes

A Toronto Transit Commission workers shuttle passengers to Islington Station after the TTC rail was damaged just outside Kipling Station in the morning in Toronto on Dec. 18, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

A crackdown on fake transit passes has resulted in dozens of arrests and almost 200 criminal charges.

Most of those arrested were charged with knowingly using fake Metropasses, but seven are accused of selling them. One of those people allegedly had 56 phony cards, another had 10, and the remainder only a few each.

"Obviously, they share a common connection in their source," said Staff Sergeant Mark Russell of the Toronto Transit Commission's investigative services branch.

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The investigation, which started last fall, culminated in the arrest of 62 people at subway stations and on bus routes across the city. The producers of the fake cards have not been found and the investigation continues.

"We believe they're probably being made locally," Toronto Police Constable Robert Moynagh said.

This is the latest salvo in a fight against fraudulent use of the TTC.

The commission estimates it loses $5-million annually to fake passes and tokens and believes that only about 10 per cent of fraudsters are caught. And despite security features on Metropasses, Staff Sgt. Russell acknowledged that producing counterfeit cards is relatively cheap.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross – who said no staff members were among those arrested – explained that fake monthly passes are routinely peddled online and around schools, often for less than half the cost of a real one. Police and TTC officials warned that people should beware of buying passes outside authorized channels and said the recent arrests point to the danger of using fake cards.

The easiest way to determine if a card is phony is to test the magnetic strip, a feature that counterfeiters are not known to have mastered. (Mr. Ross said making everyone swipe their cards to ensure they work would inconvenience too many people.) Also, real cards are glossy on the front and have a matte finish on the back, while many fakes are glossy on both sides. And while genuine cards have slightly raised serial numbers and prices, those spots on phony cards are often smooth.

Mr. Ross said the problem will disappear when the Presto smart-card payment system is rolled out in the coming years. A total of 140 cards were seized in the investigation, though police could not estimate how many had already been sold. About 400,000 passes are issued every month.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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