New research from the FCA has found that nearly half (47%) of investors would fail to identify a screen sharing scam, as it reveals an increase of 86% in cases in one year, with 2,014 cases and over £25 million in loses. 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.
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 then gave the scammers open access to all the financial details on her computer.
Her case is just one of thousands the FCA has seen 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.
To understand what might be influencing potential victims, the FCA surveyed 2,000 investors from the ages of 18 to 55+. The results showed that 51% of would-be investors would check if a company appears on the FCA’s Warning List when deciding if an investment opportunity is legitimate. 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.
Likewise, 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, like ensuring the firm or the financial promotion is properly authorised.
With the pandemic increasing use of video conferencing and remote platforms to both work and socialise, scammers are taking advantage of a growing familiarity with requests for screen sharing. Although older respondents admitted needing more help with technology, 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.’
The research also revealed other factors which might tempt investors to make a snap decision: 23% said they would be encouraged if the person they were speaking to appeared knowledgeable about investing; 17% said the possibility of securing better returns than elsewhere, and 14% would be encouraged if that person appeared to be successful – with displays of wealth.
The FCA is calling on all investors to be ScamSmart and check the advice on our Scamsmart website, including our Warning List 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. 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.