Police in the Turkish city of Izmir have arrested 17 members of a gang who allegedly hacked into internet banking accounts and stole $300,000 (£154,000) from online users.

The men are accused of collaborating with three Russian cyber criminals, who are believed to have provided them with the banking usernames and passwords stolen from the computers they infected with spyware, Turkish authorities claim.

The Russian hackers allegedly sold the banking login details of thousands of Turkish online customers for ten per cent of the money stolen by the gang, according to police.

The authorities closed in on the group after hundreds of people started to complain about suspicious withdrawals from their online bank accounts in January.

Officers from the Izmir organised crime bureau began to investigate the case and discovered the IP addresses of the computers making the fraudulent transactions. Agents then made simultaneous raids at various properties across Turkey, including Izmir.

“In recent years there has been steady growth in the number of viruses and Trojan horses written to steal banking information from web surfers,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

“The Turkish authorities should be applauded for looking into this case so speedily, but phishing and spyware is a global problem, and requires a global clampdown.”

In December last year, a Russian bank chief, who coordinated an international identity theft operation, was jailed for six years. The 42-year-old former head of Moscow City Bank helped run a criminal gang, which stole millions of pounds from British, American and Spanish account holders.