A 23-year-old man from Avon & Somerset has been arrested for theft of gaming accounts in the MMORPG RuneScape. The man is alleged to have "hacked and misappropriated" players' accounts, and was caught after developers Jagex reported the issues to the Police Central e-crime Unit.

The accounts are stolen by the use of phishing sites, which mimic official websites and ask players to input their usernames and passwords, which are logged. The thief then changes the password on the account to lock the original owner out. The problem is common in many online multiplayer games as players can have equipment and characters worth hundreds of pounds.

Jagex's CEO said: "Jagex maintains a specialist team to combat any law breaking within our games. Where there is any evidence to suggest someone has committed a crime, as is clearly the case with any phishing or hijacking, we work closely with law enforcement agencies around the world to bring these people to account".

"Players invest years of time and effort into developing their RuneScape character so the theft of a RuneScape account shouldn’t be treated differently to the theft of any other valuable possessions such as a games console, television or car. Our internal investigations revealed that just a handful of individuals are responsible for over 95% of all account hijacking in RuneScape".

A police spokesperson confirmed: "A 23-year-old man was arrested in Avon & Somerset on the morning of Tues 24 Nov by officers from the Police Central e-crime Unit, following an allegation that a number of RuneScape gaming accounts had been hacked and misappropriated".

"People who seek to destroy others online gaming experience could be committing criminal offences, leaving themselves liable to prosecution. The PCeU will continue to work with the industry and investigate these allegations where appropriate".