New research highlighted in a recent press release from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that nearly half of investors would fail to identify a screen sharing scam. So, what is a screen sharing scam, what does it mean for you and how would you know what to look for?
Since July 2020 the FCA has recorded 2,142 cases of scams via screen sharing, with an 86% increase in the space of just one year, all of which have resulted in losses of over £25 million. With the online meetings and remote platforms now ‘the norm’ for both work and socialising as a result of the pandemic, scammers have clearly seen an opportunity to take advantage of the growing familiarity for requests for screen sharing and are making the most of it.
In one case shared by the FCA as a cautionary tale, 59 year old Angela Underhill clicked on an online advertisement for bitcoin and subsequently received a call from individuals claiming to be financial advisers. Offering to complete the first investment for her, they asked her to download the ‘AnyDesk’ platform, which then gave the scammers open access to all the financial details on her computer. Unfortunately, Angela’s case is just one of the thousands reported to the FCA’s Consumer Helpline. And it’s not just while you are sharing your screen, some of these scams open the door for scammers to embed themselves in victims’ digital devices, allowing access to online banking and investment details.
What Are Screen Sharing Scams?
The FCA describes screen sharing scams as:
..the method a scammer might use to take information from you or access your accounts to transfer your money. You may be contacted out of the blue through social media or over the phone. Or when searching online for an investment opportunity or the contact details for a company.
Once a scammer has contacted you, they will try and gain your trust and convince you they can help. The type of scams may vary, whether that’s help with an investment or a banking service, the scammer will typically ask you to download legitimate screen sharing software.
This could be software you have heard of or have used before with work, friends or family. Examples of this type of software include, but are not limited to, AnyDesk, Microsoft Teams, TeamViewer, Zoom. This could be through your phone, laptop or computer.
The scam can only take place if you download the software and allow them to take control of your screen. Once they have access to your screen, they can access to your personal information. Including any financial accounts, such as your online banking.
Who Is At Risk?
To understand what might be influencing potential victims, the FCA surveyed 2,000 investors between the ages of 18 to 55+. While 91% of those surveyed said they would never share their PIN with a stranger, 85% of those people would not think a request by a website to use or download software as a warning sign that someone was seeking to gain illegal access to personal information on your device.
One might also assume that those less familiar with technology would be the people most at risk. Although older respondents admitted needing more help with technology, young investors are not immune, with a quarter of 18-34 year olds confessing they would agree to screen sharing their online baking or investment portal with someone they had not met.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, FCA, said: 'Investment scams can happen over many months, but sharing your screen without making the proper checks can change everything in an instant. Once scammers gain access to your screen, they have complete control. That means access to your sensitive banking and investment information, the freedom to browse at their leisure, and the ability to take whatever details they want. It can affect any investor, no matter how experienced. It’s incredibly difficult to get money back once lost in this way, but there are ways to protect yourself: don’t share your screen with anyone, as legitimate firms will not ask you to do this and check out our Scamsmart website for advice on how to avoid being scammed.'
How to Protect Yourself
One of the main warning signs of a potential scam is if a firm or individual contacts you out of the blue. If you are asked to share your screen or provide remote access to your phone or computer, this is a warning sign it’s a scam.
Even if you have searched for a company online and contacted the firm, you should never share your screen with them. Scammers may try to build trust, friendship or a sense of security with you. Be wary of being put under pressure to make any decisions, and any offers you receive. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The FCA has more information on how to avoid investment scams on its website.
The FCA is calling on all investors to be ScamSmart and check the advice on their ScamSmart website, before making any investment decisions. This will help identify any firms that are actively running scams, or flag to investors where additional research is needed. It’s imperative to remember that if you deal with an unauthorised firm, you will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
There are three important questions to ask to protect yourself from these scams:
Have you checked the FCA’s Scamsmart wesbite and Warning List? This will help you to avoid being scammed and show you whether or not the firm you are dealing with is registered, or known to be suspicious.
Are you being asked to download anything new? Your bank will never need to access your screen to view your information, so someone asking you to do this is a clear warning sign.
Have you navigated away from your banking, or investment platform? Anything that takes you away from your banking or investment app, and through a search engine, increases the risk of coming across a fraudulent number or link.
There are lots of resources available, with explanations and advice on the different types of scams going on and how to protect yourself. Take a look at our blog posts In a Time of Turmoil, Don’t Fall Prey to Financial Scams and Don’t Fall Victim to Scams: A Helpful Guide or visit the Money Helper, Action Fraud or Take Five to Stop Fraud websites, which are signposted from the FCA website and have lots of information and useful tips.
How To Report A Screen Sharing Scam
If you think you’ve been in contact with a scammer, or that you may have been scammed and lost money, you can report the firm or scam to the FCA by contacting their Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using their reporting form.
If you’ve given your bank account details to a firm you think may be operating a scam, tell your bank immediately.
If you've agreed to transfer your pension and now suspect a scam, contact your pension provider straight away. They may be able to stop a transfer that hasn't taken place yet.
Watch Out For Future Scams
If you’ve already invested in a scam, then fraudsters are likely to target you again or sell your details to other criminals.
The follow-up scam may be completely separate or related to the previous fraud. For example, receiving an offer to help get your money back or to buy back the investment after you pay a fee.
Transparent and Trustworthy
Here at Chesterton House we pride ourselves on being completely transparent at every stage of our service. We are regulated by the FCA and we are also a CISI Accredited Financial Planning Firm, which means that we have had to demonstrate a high level of competence and a clear adherence to financial planning principles and practices. Many of our clients have been with us for decades, trusting us to manage, protect and grow their wealth to find financial freedom.
If you're looking for reliable financial advice, why not give us a call today to find out how we can help you do the same?
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