A man has been jailed for nearly four years for his part in a phishing scam that targeted UK students to steal in excess of £1.5 million.
Olajide Onikoyi, 29, of Hexagon Close, Blackley, Manchester, was among a number of cyber criminals who targeted students by sending them emails inviting them to update details on their student loan account via a link to a bogus website.
When the site was accessed by the unsuspecting victims, Onikoyi was able to gain unauthorised access to their bank accounts and extract large amounts of money.
Onikoyi laundered £393,000 from 238 victims in total, with one alone having £19,000 taken from their account.
The scam was identified and Onikoyi was arrested following an operation by detectives from the now-disbanded Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit.
As part of their inquiries, detectives worked closely with the banking industry, internet service providers and Student Loans Company, which said it regularly put out warnings about such scams.
"All students should be alert to these scams and remain vigilant to attempts to defraud them and steal their funds, particularly around payment times," Heather Laing, fraud prevention and detection manager at the Student Loans Company, warned.
"It is absolutely vital for students to protect themselves and their finances by keeping personal and account information safe. We will never request a customer to provide or confirm their account or banking details by email or text.
"This case and the sentence received has sent a clear message that the courts take fraud against the taxpayer very seriously.
"Once we identified the extent of the fraud and alerted the police to the issue, they worked with the wider financial community to investigate further, resulting in the sentencing."
When police seized Onikoyi's computer, they found chat logs from cyber crime forums that revealed he was conspiring with others from Russia, Lithuania and the UK in order to compromise computers and associated bank accounts.
The Nigerian national pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud UK financial institutions of £393,000 and money laundering on Tuesday before being sentenced at London's Southwark Crown Court yesterday to three years in prison for conspiracy to defraud and nine months for money laundering, to run consecutively.
Detective Chief Inspector Jason Tunn, of the Met Police's Cyber Crime Unit, said: "My officers worked doggedly to secure Onikoyi's conviction. They examined numerous leads to identify members of this phishing gang, of which Onikoyi was a key member.
"He played a significant role in the scam by systematically targeting British students and UK financial institutions in order to steal large amounts of money that were then dispersed across numerous bank accounts."
"We've had a number of bank accounts and properties connected to Onikoyi restrained under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is now subject to a financial investigation."
A number of other people have also been jailed over the scam.