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City watchdog reveals £25m lost in screen sharing scams

Investors are being warned to be on their guard following a surge in screen sharing fraud.

At least 2,142 cases of screen sharing fraud were seen by the Financial Conduct Authority between July 2020 and March 2022, and that in the last 12 months cases had risen by 86 per cent.

The FCA estimated savers lost £25m to scams between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022, with victims ranging from 18 to over 70.

A 59-year-old woman lost £48,000 as scammers used screen sharing software to take over her computer and access her banking history.

The FCA said its latest ScamSmart campaign was aiming to raise awareness of the tactics used by scammers and help investors spot the warning signs by checking its warning list.

Its research showed 51 per cent of investors would check the FCA’s warning list before making an investment – ​​but 47 per cent would not see a request to use software or an app to access their device as a red flag.

In one case, a 59-year-old who was persuaded to download remote desktop software to secure an investment, lost over £48,000 while scammers accessed her banking details, her pension, and applied for loans on her behalf.

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The woman clicked on an advertisement for bitcoin and 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.

Her case is just one of thousands the FCA has been reported to its consumer helpline. Using platforms including Teams, TeamViewer and Zoom, screen sharing scams not only involve consumers sharing their financial data – but scammers have also been able to embed themselves in victims’ digital devices to access online banking and investment details.

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 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.’

The FCA is calling on all investors to be scam smart and check the advice on its Scamsmart website, which includes a warning list. Steward said this would help identify any firms that are actively running scams, or flag investors where additional research is needed.

What are screen sharing scams?

A screen sharing scam is 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.

How to protect yourself from scammers

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 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.

How to avoid being scammed

Always check the FCA Warning List before dealing with a company, to find out if they are known to be operating without our authorisation.

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 us by contacting the FCA’s consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using its 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.

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