FCA warns of “screen sharing scam” as over £25 million lost so far

Rick Steves

Of the 91% who said they would never share their PIN with a stranger, 85% would not think a request by a website to use or download video conferencing or remote software as a red flag.

The Financial Conduct Authority, UK’s financial watchdog, is raising awareness of increasingly sophisticated investment scam tactics, including the “screen sharing scam”, which increased by 86% and is behind over £25 million lost so far.

The FCA’s latest ScamSmart campaign shared a few examples, including a 59-year-old woman who lost £48,000 as scammers used screen sharing software to take over her computer and access her banking history.

Angela Underhill 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 allowed scammers to access her banking details, her pension, and applied for loans on her behalf.

In total, there were 2,142 cases reported to the FCA since July 2020, with over £25 million lost between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022. Young investors should beware because this scam has also successfully targeted victims as young as 18 year-olds.

Too many investors don’t know requests are a red flag

According to the FCA’s research shows 51% of investors would check the regulator’s Warning List before making an investment, but 47% don’t see a request to use software or an app to access their device as a red flag.

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.

The FCA’s Warning List is a list of firms that are not authorised or registered by the FCA, and are known to be running scams. However, of the 91% who said they would never share their PIN with a stranger, 85% 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.

While 88% said they would check if their investments were offered or sold by FCA firms , 10% of these people would still trust their gut instinct with an investment opportunity from someone they didn’t know without making proper checks.

Scammers are taking advantage of video conferencing and remote platforms to request screen sharing. Younger investors are not immune: a quarter (26%) of those aged 18-34 would agree to screensharing their online banking 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 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.’

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