Montreal·CBC Investigates

Montreal police rebuffed effort to retrieve stolen merchandise, merchant says

After his store was targeted by Montreal-based online fraudsters, a Florida equestrian-goods retailer contacted Montreal police, but he says his complaint wasn't taken seriously.

Almost no recourse for merchants who are victims of online fraud, says CFIB

Amit Ramani, who co-owns a specialty equestrian store based in Florida, said he contacted Montreal police in November after his online business was hit by a flurry of fraudulent purchases from the Montreal area, but he felt his complaint wasn't taken seriously.

Amit Ramani thought he had the perfect plan to help Montreal police catch the thieves who stole from Tacknrider, his Florida-based online equestrian-goods business.

It was rare for him to get many orders from Canada, because of the high exchange rate.

But when a slew of orders came through last October, all from the Montreal area, he didn't give it much thought — until a few days later, when his credit card processor flagged the orders as suspicious.
Online fraudsters purchased thousands of dollars worth of equestrian merchandise like this from Amit Ramani's online business, Tacknrider. (Tacknrider)

The purchases didn't fit the cardholders' normal buying pattern.

By then, he'd already shipped the merchandise. 

As soon as he found out it was en route to thieves, Ramani leapt into action. Out thousands of dollars, he hoped to at least retrieve some of his merchandise.

International shipments are usually picked up at the post office, so Ramani thought the police, with his help, could arrange to have the parcels sent to a nearby post office.

The post office could then notify the police when the fraudsters came in to pick them up.

He called up both the U.S. Postal Service and Canada Post, as well as Canada Customs. He also called his local police force in Florida which told him he should contact Montreal police.

He called the Montreal police stations closest to the shipping addresses he had for his goods. They, in turn, put him through to an officer specializing in internet and e-commerce crime. Ramani laid out his plan.

"The officer just laughed in my face," said Ramani. "I have to say, for lack of a better word, they chose inaction."

Ramani said the officer refused even to register his complaint.

"What kind of police operation is that?" said Ramani. "There are criminals living in your backyard."

The officer just laughed in my face …for lack of a better word, they chose inaction.- Amit Ramani, co-owner of Florida-based Tacknrider

SPVM tight-lipped

A communications officer for Montreal police (SPVM) said she can't confirm an officer spoke to Ramani because the SPVM never discusses individual cases.

But she said if Ramani was based in Florida, he should file a complaint with his local police department, which would then contact the SPVM or the RCMP, if necessary. 

Ramani had already done that. He said he doesn't understand why he got the runaround.

"It appears like the different police departments keep shifting the responsibility instead of owning it," said Ramani.

"I am sure that I am not the only business affected by this ring of credit card theft."

Online crime not taken seriously

Ramani is far from alone, said Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Nearly half of the 110,000 small businesses he represents have experienced payments-related fraud, said Kelly.

"Yet our law enforcement system seems almost completely incapable of investigating these," he said.

The CFIB's president, Dan Kelly, said police don't have the resources to investigate payments-related fraud in Canada. (CBC)

Part of that may be a question of resources.

Kelly said local police usually tell retailers to alert the Canadian Anti-Fraud centre. Beyond that, he said, there is little recourse.

"Nobody is going to follow up, and that is a real shame," he said.

Once a business is burned by fraud, he said, some pull out of online sales altogether, which is unfortunate.

"That's obviously not a good thing, because it leaves the game to the big guys," said Kelly.

Consumers lack vigilance

Consumers are also part of the problem.

Carson Woo, who teaches management information systems at UBC's Sauder School of Business, said many people aren't vigilant enough about securing their personal information.

They'll get a call or email from a scammer fishing for credit card and personal details and naively hand it over. That arms fraudsters with all the information they need to go on a buying spree, Woo said.

Woo also thinks politicians need to get serious about fraud and its impact.

He says there should be a heavy penalty, including jail time, for anyone who commits this kind of fraud.

Fraud risk of doing e-commerce

Since Tacknrider was defrauded, Ramani said he's reluctantly had to become a part-time detective.

He has found out some of the credit cards used in the thefts of Tacknrider's merchandise in October were issued in countries such as Japan or Germany but were being used in Canada. 

He's still accepting online payments, but he is going the extra mile to try and make sure customers are legitimate.

That includes researching to see if they're even involved in equestrian sports.

Ramani used to pride himself on getting orders out quickly. The fraud has slowed that process down.

He's now fielding calls from legitimate customers who are wondering why their merchandise hasn't been shipped.

"I feel like I'm letting down my customers, but at the same time, I've got to watch my bottom line because if I don't do this, I will soon be out of business."

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Leah Hendry


Leah Hendry is an investigative reporter with CBC in Montreal. She specializes in health and social issues. She has previously worked as a reporter for CBC in Vancouver and Winnipeg. You can email story ideas or tips to