UK: Scotland Yard Arrests 19 for Hacking into Bank Customer Accounts, Stealing Millions

LONDON (AP) — Scotland Yard's special electronic crimes unit Tuesday arrested 19 people suspected of draining millions of dollars from British banks by hacking into customers' accounts.

Police said they were tracking at least 6 million pounds ($9.5 million) that had been stolen from UK banks in the last three months after thousands of customers' online accounts were hacked. They said this figure is expected to increase significantly as the investigation expands.

Investigators said thousands of personal computers in the UK have been infected with malicious computer codes including one Trojan virus known as Zeus that has allowed criminal gangs to get personal login details and access bank accounts so that money can be transferred to accounts under criminal control.

"We believe we have disrupted a highly organized criminal network, which has used sophisticated methods to siphon large amounts of cash from many innocent peoples' accounts, causing immense personal anxiety and significant financial harm — which of course banks have had to repay at considerable cost to the economy," Detective Chief Inspector Terry Wilson said in a statement.

He warned bank customers to be make sure their computer security protection is up to date and to be suspicious of any unusual changes in their log-on procedures.

Police say the Trojan poses a worldwide threat and is increasingly used to gain illegal access to bank accounts.

The 15 men and four women between the ages of 23 and 47 are suspected of computer crimes and fraud. Two were also charged on suspicion of firearms possession. They were arrested in London early Tuesday morning.

Scotland Yard's police electronic crimes unit arrested a man and woman, both 20, in Manchester in November after they were accused of using similar viruses to infect computers.

Police said at the time they were the first people arrested in Europe on suspicion of using the latest batch of potent viruses in a bid to raid bank accounts.

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