Fraudsters bilk $5.1 million from Torontonians in Canada-wide phone scam: police

Toronto police are issuing a warning after a phone fraud scheme recently bilked five people in the city out of a combined $5.1 million, with investigators saying the scam appears to be targeting hundreds of people across the country.

Det. Sgt. Ian Nichol says starting in November, victims began coming forward about receiving calls from a retailer telling them they were the target of credit card fraud.

Police say the caller would remain on the line after telling victims to hang up and call 911 or their bank, exploiting a quirk in landline phone technology that allowed the fraudster to redirect the call seconds later to another impostor claiming to be a police detective or a bank fraud investigator.

Nichol says the fraudster posing as an investigator then allegedly told the victim to withdraw their assets and wire them to another location while the supposed investigation into the purported fraud affecting their credit card was being completed.

Police say victims would then wire their money to an account provided by the fraudsters and were told to keep their activity secret to protect the "investigation'' into complicit bank employees.

"It appears to be a true mass marketing scheme in the sense that there are certainly hundreds of thousands of attempts being made,'' Nichol said.