More than 14 months ago, a high profile fraud arrest played out in the early morning in Brampton, Ontario. With CBC Marketplace cameras rolling, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested a couple alleged to be the Canadian ‘money mules’ for an international fraud organization.
It remains one of the most notable moments in the battle against fraud, and one that needs to occur more frequently, according to the results of the recent survey of Consumers Council of Canada’s Public Interest Network (PIN).
The couple, Gurinder and Inderpreet Dhaliwal, were charged in February 2020 with fraud over $5,000, laundering the proceeds of crime and possession of property obtained by crime. A search of the couple’s home found $26,000 in cash, $114,000 in jewellery, a cash-counting machine, and envelopes said to be received from scam victims who believed they owed money to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
At a press conference following the arrest, RCMP representatives said the arrests would disrupt the flow of money from Canada to India under the CRA scam. That scam involved callers identifying themselves as either the CRA or RCMP and then instructing/intimidating victims into paying non-existent fines or taxes. The CRA scam had resulted in reported losses of more than $17.2 million between 2014 and 2019. The RCMP indicated the Dhaliwals were not involved in the calls, which originated in India, but received the money and sent it to the organized crime groups that orchestrated the scams in India.
Last week, RCMP representatives said the charges from the arrests, known as Project Octavia, “are still before the courts and all are still moving forward. Therefore, there is nothing by way of update or new information.”
As part of March’s Fraud Prevention Month campaign, the Consumers Council of Canada’ monthly questionnaire to PIN participants asked about fraud – their own experiences, how to best stop it and who was responsible for protecting consumers from it.
Participant responses identified three possible sources of fraud reduction, including better consumer education, and better technology. But the most commonly cited factor was high-profile enforcement – arrests and prosecutions.
The PIN summary report is available in the Council’s online store, and is free to PIN members. The PIN is a group of Canadians interested in consumer protection issues, and is free to join for all Canadian residents.