Four years after the Toronto Transit Commission introduced bi-metallic tokens, it is now estimated that as many as 2,000 fake tokens are dropped into the TTC system per day. Two alleged fraudsters have now been arrested.
In November 2006, former TTC Chairman Howard Moscoe introduced bi-metallic tokens after thousands of fake tokens made its way through the transit system. However, Moscoe did warn that someday someone will create fake tokens, which has happened now: “As careful as we are and as good as we are, you can never absolutely eliminate forgeries.”
On Nov. 1, Toronto Police arrested two men suspected of being involved in a TTC counterfeit scheme. According to the National Post, the two suspects picked up a package full of fake tokens, which came from China.
Officers say when they stopped the vehicle; they found 3,800 fake tokens – valued at $10,000. Paul Klein and Vincent Ham are now facing charges of bringing property obtained by crime to Canada, deal with counterfeit tokens, attempted fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime.
This latest incident now has the TTC seriously considering the Presto system, which is a pre-paid card that taps a scanner and deducts money from the account. It is already used at many TTC stations.
“I think what this demonstrates certainly is the level of sophistication that counterfeiters will go to beat the system,” said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. “I think the important thing is for the TTC to acknowledge is that we know there is a problem and we are working hard to bring an end to.”
So how different are the tokens? At first glance, according to CBC News, they are identical to the real tokens. However, after closer examination by the University of Toronto’s Materials Science and Engineering Department shows there are at least three key discrepancies:
The top of the second “t” in Toronto is cut off. The spacing of the letters is not constant. The ridges on the outside edges are not clearly defined.
Although a transit rider cannot insert a fraudulent token in the automatic reader in turnstiles, one can easily drop it into a fare box, which would make it difficult for a TTC operator to identify a fake token.
Real tokens can be purchased for $2.50 in batches.