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TTC token fraud in high gear

by Don Peat

Token fraud may be on the rise at the TTC but its the end of the line for two alleged fare fraudsters.

The TTC now estimates around 2,000 fake tokens are dropped into the system every day.

That’s up about 500 tokens a day since March 2009.

Good investigative work by Canada Border Services and the Toronto Police fraud squad put the brakes on two fake token suspects.

Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. John White said the CBSA called the fraud squad earlier this month when it intercepted a box of 3,800 counterfeit TTC tokens heading to Hogtown from China.

“They were stopped at the border, examined by customs and identified to be counterfeit,” White said.

Cops had the name and address of where the tokens were heading and were able to catch up with two suspects on Nov. 1.

Paul Keim, 31, and Vincent Ham, 23, both of Toronto, are charged with a laundry list of fraud and other criminal charges.

While police busted a mint in the U.S. years ago that was pumping out replicas of the old-style TTC token, this seems to be the first time they’ve caught coins from overseas.

“It’s the first I’m aware of from China,” White said.

Police were tight-lipped about how they can pick up the difference but they added, to the naked eye, these tokens would fool you.

“They look like a TTC token,” White said.

Although police don’t know where the tokens were destined to be sold, they assume they would have been doled out at a discount from the cost of the real thing.

“If you don’t want to get caught with a fake token, only buy it from legitimate sources,” White added.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross told the Sun that a spike in token fraud is not surprising because they’ve stemmed fare fraud when it comes to adult tickets and Metropasses.

Last year, the TTC changed the design of the Metropass, including a hologram. The transit agency changes the shade and placement of the hologram each month.

In the fall of 2008, the TTC discontinued the use of adult tickets due to rampant counterfeiting.

“We haven’t seen any counterfeiting of Metropasses (since the change),” Ross said. “We’ve stemmed the tide on tickets. We’ve stemmed the tide on Metropasses. Now it’s the tokens.”

Four years ago, the TTC spent more than $1 million to introduce the two-colour “teeny toonie tokens” in an effort to thwart counterfeiters.

Ross stressed that while counterfeit tokens are turning up, they rarely get past the automated turnstiles.

Most fake tokens get dropped in the token box but once they are sorted, the TTC is able to cull them out of circulation, he said.

“That’s important because we’re not pumping them back into the system,” he said.

But token fraud won’t last forever.

“The ultimate solution of course will be the fare card or a smart card,” Ross said.

A magnetic stripe, like the one on the Metropasses, could mark the end of the line for counterfeiters.

“They’ve been able to replicate the look of a Metropass but they’ve never been able to replicate the magnetic stripe,”