Investors have lost £25 million to screen sharing scams, and almost half would fail to spot one
by MATHEW ANGELL, Dip PFS
Scams can have a devastating effect on your financial wellbeing and confidence. While investment scams may be rarer than some other types, they are often associated with losing more money and they’re on the rise.
According to statistics from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), more than £25 million was lost between January 2021 and March 2022 to a new type of fraud, dubbed “screen sharing scams”.
Criminals are taking advantage of the growing familiarity with video conferencing and screen sharing since the start of the pandemic to access sensitive information. In the last year alone, the number of reported cases has increased by 86%. On average, victims have lost more than £10,000 and, in one case, a woman lost £48,000.
47% of investors would fall victim to a screen sharing scam
Worryingly, the FCA found that almost half of investors would not spot a screen sharing scam. So, what does the scam involve?
Fraudsters will try to access your sensitive information by viewing your computer screen. This may be done by asking you to share your screen when you’re looking at your online banking or other accounts, or by requesting that you download a platform that will provide them with access.
By obtaining your personal and financial details, the scammer may be able to access things like your current account and pension. What’s more, with this information they could also take out loans or other forms of credit in your name.
The scammers will often pose as financial advisers with an investment opportunity. This is because they know you want to make the most of your money and may be more likely to overlook red flags if higher investment returns are discussed. In fact, 17% of people told the FCA they would be encouraged to act if they could secure better returns.
23% also said scammers appearing knowledgeable would tempt them, while 14% would be encouraged if the person appeared to be successful through displays of wealth.
We know we shouldn’t share sensitive information. However, the survey suggests there’s a disconnect when it comes to screen sharing and downloading software.
91% of people said they would never share their PIN with a stranger. Yet, 85% would not think a request to use or download software was a red flag. This is despite your computer potentially providing access to far more information and money than your PIN.
While the statistics suggest that older generations are more likely to need help using technology, and so are more vulnerable to screen sharing scams, younger generations aren’t immune. A quarter of investors aged between 18 and 34 said they would agree to screen share their online banking or investment portal with someone they had not met.
5 things you should do to minimise the chance of falling victim to a screen sharing scam
If you fall victim to a scam, it can be incredibly difficult to get your money back. So, taking steps to reduce the risk is important.
1. Be cautious about who you share your screen with
There are many scenarios when sharing a screen can make working or connecting easier. However, be cautious about who you do this with, particularly if you have never met the person.
If you do share your screen with someone, take a few minutes to check what they can see. Are your personal details displayed on your screen? Do any of your open windows contain information you need to keep secure?
If someone asks you to share your screen while you’re logged in to financial accounts or platforms, this should be a red flag. A legitimate financial firm will not ask you to do this.
2. Be careful when downloading software
As mentioned above, criminals may also suggest you download software to use. They may make it sound as though this will make managing your finances easier or say it is the only way to access the opportunity you’re being offered.
You should be wary if this is suggested as it may allow them to access the information stored on your computer.
3. Always check the FCA Warning List and register
Just 51% of investors would think to check the FCA’s Warning List, which allows you to verify an investment opportunity. It will highlight if a firm is authorised and regulated by the FCA, as well as providing details of known scammers.
If you’ve been approached by someone purporting to be a regulated financial services professional, the FCA register can also be useful.
It holds the details of regulated firms and individuals, and shows what they have permissions for. It also contains contact details, so you can check a fraudster isn’t pretending to be from a legitimate firm.
4. Give yourself some time
Don’t let someone rush you into making a decision. Whether it’s to arrange a meeting or invest your money, give yourself time to think through your options. Sometimes a step back is all you need to realise that something isn’t quite right.
A legitimate adviser or firm will understand why you want some space to think. High-pressure tactics, such as time-limited offers or aggressive sales calls, are warning signals.
5. Contact us
If you’re worried about scams or have any questions about an offer you’ve received, we’re here to help. A different perspective can help you spot the signs of a scam before it’s too late.
We can also offer advice on how opportunities may fit into your wider financial plan and which options make sense for your goals. Please contact us if you’d like to talk.
Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.
The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MATHEW ANGELL, Dip PFS
Director & Financial Lifestyle Planner
Matt’s goal is to help you develop great financial habits and make sure your life is at the forefront of all plans that are put in place. His vision is to be your trusted partner through your life, there to help you through the difficult times and appreciate the good.