Six Nigerians have gone on trial at the Old Bailey for an alleged scam in which a Trojan was used to steal £1 million ($1.5 million) from the bank accounts of job seekers lured using a bogus offer of work at London’s Harrods department store.

According to the Daily Mail, the gang is accused of posting hundreds of fake job adverts for different retail firms on the Gumtree website in August and September 2010. Respondents were then asked to doanload an application form from what appeared to be a recruitment agency but was actually the installer for a bank Trojan written to redirect victims to phishing websites.

Sums reported to be between £400 and £4,700 were stolen from a large number of victims, with the total fraud said to be over £1 million. Mule accounts used to avoid bank fraud detection systems, the court heard.

The con eventually came to light after Harrods’ director of security detected the Trojan after complaints from victims who had been alerted to the malware on the PCs. Police had eventually arrested all of the London-based suspects within weeks.

The six accused of being involved include Tyrone Elis, 27, said to have created the malware, helped by fellow IT graduates Ajibola Akinlabi, 26, Babatunde Akinlabi, 28, Damilare Oduwole, 26; and Olalekan Awosile, 27. The latter’s mother, Folasade Balogun, is accused of allowing her Internet connection to be used to carry out the attacks.

Awosile is also accused of collecting information on Santander customers with more than £100,000 in their accounts after obtaining details from his girlfriend who worked at the bank.

All the accused deny the charges.

The alleged campaign is an example of the type of attack that is difficult to defend against. Current browsers would probably have blocked the obvious phishing links but a sizable minority of consumers persist in running older versions.  

Despite its cleverness, the campaign outlined in court also sounds clunky enough to be discovered fairly quickly. But in 2010, the banks were still getting used to the idea that phishing attacks on customers were about to become an everyday hazard for online account holders.

“Consumers can look out for tell-tale signs of phishing emails including the accuracy of the company logo on the email - if it looks a bit blurry it’s probably fake - and the email address from which the message was sent. If they’re unsure whether an email is genuine, it’s safer not to touch it,” said McAfee’s EMEA CTO, Raj Samani by way of offering generic advice. 

 “Consumers need to ensure they’ve employed adequate online security which can recognise and flag up when something on an email or website is potentially risky,” he said.