The fraudsters, who kept the stolen data from Desjardins, took advantage of the hastily deployed Canadian emergency benefits at the start of the pandemic. By cautiously allowing them to distribute the money quickly, the federal government allowed them to put it in their pockets.
Following the creation of the Canada Emergency Benefits Program (CEP) in March 2020, the Government of Canada has been the victim of one of the largest frauds in its history.
The misdemeanors demanded a $2,000 check from EI and the Canada Revenue Agency, impersonating thousands of honest citizens.
Our Bureau of Investigation found the following:
- Desjardins data breach helped fraudsters in Quebec;
- Equifax and TransUnion protection measures offered to Desjardins victims were not necessary;
- An important security issue that was supposed to identify the PKU applicant (see another text);
- There are few police investigations.
- Thousands of fraudulent citizens are fighting to settle their cases (To read tomorrow);
- Ottawa is struggling to assess the extent of the fraud.
Feed the Desjardins the Beast
The 16 victims our FBI interviewed had one thing in common: they were Desjardins agents and their data was lost during the June 2019 leak.
Recall that a former employee of a financial institution is suspected of stealing the information of 9.7 million members. Then the data ended up in the hands of criminals.
“The vast majority of victims who call [à l’Agence du Revenu et à Service Canada] They are Desjardins agents,” a government source confirms.
“The lady from Services Canada told me that 99% of the people who called came from Desjardins, because of data theft,” says Melissa Grolicks, mother of a victim of phenylketonuria.
In Canada, nearly 40% of victims were from Quebec, according to data from the Canadian Anti-fraud Center.
Among them, there are many teenagers whose statements were in Desjardins.
The financial institution, however, refuses to take the blame.
“It is very difficult and risky to make a direct link between identity theft and the state of personal information in Desjardins. […] Several organizations have also announced the leak of personal information,” company spokesperson Jean-Benoit Turcotti wrote via email.
Additionally, unlike private credit applications, Equifax and TransUnion protection measures offered to Desjardins victims do not report fraud related to government benefits.
Analysts consulted also confirmed the links between massive PCU fraud and this leak.
“Desjardins is the largest security breach in the country and in Quebec. This is the data that contains everything you need to commit fraud,” said Patrick Mathieu, an information security expert.
Stephane Roel, a lieutenant detective in the Quebec City Police Department, is responsible for the Fraud and Proceeds of Crime Investigation Unit.
Petty PKU scammers can rest easy, as almost no investigation has been opened in police stations across Quebec. Nearly all of the files have been transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which has little interest in issues unrelated to organized crime.
In Montreal, the police department is not conducting any investigation despite having submitted more than 1,000 files to it.
On the Quebec City side, there are no arrests of more than 800 files.
The police only investigate if the investigation can be resolved easily.
We know that the perpetrators of these crimes are well organized. We know they know how to take advantage of loopholes,” notes Stefan Roel, an investigatory lieutenant with SPVQ.
Thus, many victims simply decided not to report.
For this reason, the Quebec secretariat refuses to disclose the number of complaints received because it would not represent the reality.
When a citizen is a victim of ECP fraud, the Government of Canada still advises victims to make a statement at their local police station.
The files are transferred to RCMP, which does not seem to be in a hurry to investigate.
“We will continue to investigate large-scale fraud and those related to organized crime, while relevant police services will provide support for local investigations,” said Sgt. Caroline Duval of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The victims were surprised
The victims are thus left to fend for themselves, knowing that few fraudsters will pay for these crimes.
“We all had different police reports. In some cases, we had too much information to conduct an investigation. We received a message that our files were closed due to a lack of information,” notes Kathryn Kosminsky Martin, a Boucherville victim.
However, she managed to get close to the scammers who stole her identity.
“I was told that it is practically impossible to find the scammers. I had the address, cell phone number and email. And despite everything, no, we can’t catch them.”
However, SQ recently conducted searches in Ruan Noranda to break up a network of scammers.
The alleged criminals are said to have illegally received $112,000, including $46,000 in ECP requests. There were seven arrests in this case, but they do not matter at this time.
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