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The Globe and Mail

Seven arrests, two labs busted, 360 charges in global ATM scam

A person of interested is pictured here in what police describe as a giant ATM fraud that stretched around the world. Seven Toronto-area people have been arrested and almost 360 charges laid.

Handout/Toronto Police Services

Seven Toronto-area people have been arrested and almost 360 charges laid in what police describe as a giant ATM fraud that stretched around the world.

The information of roughly 1,500 bank customers was compromised in an alleged scheme that involved stealing debit-card and credit-card information and using it to manufacture phony cards that were then sent to Europe, the United States, South America, South Africa and the Caribbean.

Security checks built into the Canadian banking system prevented the fake cards – modelled on so-called hybrid cards that incorporate both a chip and magnetic stripe – from being used in this country, but they could be readily deployed in most other places, Det. Ian Nichol of the financial crimes unit told reporters.

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The basic operation was not new: Unauthorized card readers and pinhole cameras were installed at various locations and then the two sets of data married together to produce the cards.

But the scope of the alleged fraud is unusual. All the major banks were victimized, and their collective loss is pegged at $360,000.

The real figures, however, are likely much higher.

"Many losses that have yet to be realized will come out as the investigation continues," Det. Nichol said.

As well, two labs used to manufacture the ATM-tampering devices were shut down, one in Scarborough, the other in the downtown area.

The Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Secret Service assisted Canadian police in the investigation, dubbed Project Holiday.

Most of the suspects are of Bulgarian origin, police said.

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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