April 30th 2014
A man was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment today for his part in a sophisticated phishing scam that targeted hundreds of UK students, using their compromised data to steal in excess of £1.5 million.
Tunji Isiaka Lawal, aged 34, of 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 fake website.
The bank accounts of the victims taken in by the scam were accessed and large sums of money withdrawn. It is believed that Lawal, a Nigerian national, was responsible for controlling a botnet (a network of virus-infected computers) used to spread phishing emails to other victims.
The scam was identified following a successful operation by detectives from the now-disbanded MPS Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), whose national remit has subsequently been assumed by the National Cyber Crime Unit. The force's Cyber Crime Unit handles investigations in the London area only.
The unit's detectives worked closely with the Students Loan Company, the banking industry and internet service providers. Last December they arrested Lawal after executing a search warrant at a his home, where they recovered a number of computers, related media storage and telephones.
Today at Southwark Crown Court, Lawal pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to commit Computer Misuse Act offences and conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment for each, to run concurrently.
The MPS Cyber Crime Unit's DI Sanjiv Gohil said: "Lawal and this group ruthlessly and systematically targeted students and financial institutions. Lawal's part in the scheme was key – he enabled thousands of phoney emails to be sent out, snaring innocent victims en masse." DI Gohil went on to advise: "Anyone who banks online should take utmost care to ensure that they are absolutely secure in doing so. Be absolutely sure that an email purporting from your bank genuinely is before clicking on any links. If in doubt, don't click on links in emails but visit your bank's website by typing its address into a new internet window."
Another Nigerian living in Manchester, 29-year-old Olajide Onikoyi, was convicted for his part in the fraud last year.