Over $130k allegedly stolen from victims in sophisticated Halton-wide “SIM swap” scam


Published April 24, 2024 at 1:45 pm

sim swap scam arrests halton toronto brantford

A complex and sophisticated scam that involves “stealing” someone’s SIM card (without actually taking their physical device) and using it to access their apps, email and bank accounts has resulted in 13 victims losing a combined $136,000, according to police.

Halton police say two Toronto men are facing charges following a three-month investigation called Project Buff. The project was launched to investigate a SIM swap scam that allegedly occurred across Halton (Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills) and the surrounding area.

Police allege that a “fraud network” was using stolen phone numbers and counterfeit identification to empty their victim’s bank accounts at various financial institutions.

On April 18, four search warrants were executed at homes in Toronto and Brantford and police allegedly seized 60 cell phones and 200 SIM cards, fraudulent IDs, two gold bars valued at $6,300, printers and other devices that can be used to produce fake IDs, a credit card printer with blank cards, a BMW X6 SUV and over $160,000 in various currencies.

Halton police alleged in a statement that “one of the residences searched contained an entire counterfeit identification lab, which was dismantled and seized by police.”

Police say Rene Jean Moneus, 46 and Emanuel Noel, 24, are facing multiple fraud-related charges.

“Thieves are constantly creating new techniques to leverage technology and steal from unsuspecting members of the public. Investigations such as Project Buff should serve as a warning to criminals that police are working even harder to stay ahead of them,” said Superintendent Dave Stewart in a statement.

“The great work by our investigators brought two suspects to justice and undoubtedly prevented further people from becoming victims and having their bank accounts drained by these criminals.”

Police are also warning people to be on the lookout for SIM swap scams.

As for how they work, a fraudster might try to gain access to your smartphone without actually taking it by calling or messaging your service provider, claiming to be you and asking for your SIM to be ported to another device in their possession. If the telecom company believes they are speaking with you, they can transfer the SIM, effectively giving someone else access to your contact list, email, social media and financial accounts. From there, they can access your personal information and data by using two-factor authentication (which involves new passwords being sent to you from legitimate apps or companies via text message) to change your passwords and lock you out of your accounts.

After doing this, a scammer might take money from your bank or other financial account, apply for credit in your name and impersonate you to defraud people on your contact list.

If you suddenly lose service to your device and the loss cannot be explained by an outage or other identifiable disruption, suspect that your phone number has been ported and contact your phone company and bank immediately.

To learn more about what to do, click here.

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