The story of a woman who lost £48,000 as scammers used screen sharing software to fool her is one of thousands of cases that has prompted watchdog FCA to launch a campaign to tackle the scam.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said more than £25m was lost to such scams between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022, with victims ranging in age from 18 to over 70.
Data from the watchdog shows nearly half (47%) of investors would fail to identify a screen sharing scam. This tactic is becoming more common, with the FCA registering an 86% increase in cases in one year, at 2,014 cases.
59-year-old 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.
She lost more than £48,000 while scammers accessed her banking details, her pension and applied for loans on her behalf.
Her case is among thousands the FCA has received to its consumer helpline.
Just 51% of would-be investors would check if a company appears on its “warning list” when deciding if an investment opportunity is legitimate in an FCA survey of 2,000 people.
Although older respondents admitted needing more help with technology, younger investors are not immune — a quarter (26%) of those aged 18 to 34 would agree to screen sharing their online banking or investment portal with someone they had not met.
While 88% said they would check if their investments were offered or sold by FCA firms, only 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.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the 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 launching its latest ScamSmart campaign aimed at raising awareness of increasingly sophisticated investment scam tactics. It is urging investors to check the advice on its Scamsmart website, including taking a look at the Warning List before making any investment decisions.
Here are three tips from the FCA to avoid getting scammed:
Check the FCA’s Scamsmart website 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.
If someone deals with an unauthorised firm, they will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.