Investors have lost more than £25mn over the past year to screen sharing scams as the Financial Conduct Authority warns of an 86 per cent increase in cases over just 12 months.
Between January 2021 and March 2022, 2,142 victims fell foul of the scam, ranging in age from 18 to over 70.
In response to the scam rise, the City watchdog has launched a new ScamSmart campaign to raise awareness of these tactics and help investors spot the warning signs by checking its warning list.
In one such case, a 59-year-old woman lost £48,000 to such a scam. Fraudsters used screen sharing software to take control of her computer, accessing her banking history, her pension, and applying for loans on her behalf.
She had clicked on an advertisement for bitcoin and received a call from individuals claiming to be financial advisers.
They offered to complete the first investment for her, asking her to download the ‘AnyDesk’ platform which gave the scammers open access to all the financial details on her computer.
The FCA said its research found that while over half (51 per cent) of investors would check its warning list before making an investment, 47 per cent would not see a request to use software or an app to access their device as a red flag.
A much larger 85 per cent 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.
The research surveyed 2,000 investors, ranging from ages of between 18 and 55 plus. Those aged 18-34 were less likely to share their screen with a stranger, but were “not immune” according to the FCA, with a quarter (26 per cent) saying they would screen share their online banking or investment portal with someone they had not met.
The regulator said by using platforms such as Teams, TeamViewer and Zoom - software popularised during the pandemic - screen sharing scams not only involve consumers sharing their financial data, but also enable scammers “to embed themselves” in victims’ digital devices to access online banking and investment details.
“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,” said the watchdog.
Factors persuading investors to share their screen with a stranger ranged from the person appearing knowledgeable about investing (23 per cent), the possibility of securing better returns than elsewhere (17 per cent), and if that person appeared to be successful – with displays of wealth (14 per cent).
“It can affect any investor, no matter how experienced,” said the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight, Mark Steward.
“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.”