Russian criminal gangs have used sophisticated virus programs to steal more than £600,000 from personal bank accounts across France.
The fraud was uncovered after police arrested a dozen Russian gang members and several Ukrainians in Moscow and St Petersburg, according to a report in the Guardian.
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Victims lost money after their computers became infected with a “sleeper virus" when they opened infected e-mails or visited infected web sites.
According to French police, the virus lies dormant until the user contacts their online bank.
This activates the virus to record passwords and bank codes and forward the crucial data to the criminals.
The gangs used the details to transfer funds to “mules” who allow the money to pass through their accounts in return for a commission of between 5% and 10%.
French authorities were alerted to the scam in November 2004, when a bank customer noticed a large sum of money had disappeared from his account.
It was followed by other reports of theft across France.