“Sharing my screen cost me £48,000”

The FCA has recently issued a warning of a new type of scan, which is of particular concern. We felt that we should draw your attention to it – please feel free to share his note with friends or family. The FCA has seen 2,142 cases since July 2020, with over £25million stolen between 1st January 2021 and 31st March 2022. For more information about this you can read the FCA’s press release here: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/investors-miss-screen-sharing-scam-signs.

In the example used by the FCA, a lady clicked on an advertisement for Bitcoin and received a call from somebody claiming to be a financial adviser. Offering to complete the first investment for her, they asked her to download the ‘AnyDesk’ application, which then gave the scammers access to all of the financial details on her computer. They then proceeded to steal £48,000 from her.

A few weeks ago, a scammer tried something similar with me, so this story rang true with me. They pretended to be from Amazon Prime and wanted to help me to cancel my free trial by sharing my screen. It was pure coincidence that I had a free trial of Prime which was coming to an end, but, because of that, it felt more genuine. For the avoidance of doubt, Amazon won’t ever ask to share your screen – and if you have any experience of their free trials, you’ll know that helping you to cancel them isn’t one of their top priorities!

One of the main warning signs of a potential scan is if a firm or individual contacts you out of the blue. If you are asked to share your screen or provide remote access to your phone or computer, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

How do screen sharing scams work?

Sharing your screen with a scammer enables them to access your accounts, so that they can transfer your money without permission. They may also take information from your computer which they can later use for the same purpose, or to aid them in another scam, such as identity fraud. The scammer might contact you out of the blue through social media or over the phone; but they could have obtained your details by being on the other end of an advert or online search for the details of an investment company.

Once a scammer has contacted you, they will try and gain your trust and convince you they can help.

The next stage is for the scammer to ask you to download legitimate screen sharing software. This could be software you have heard of, or even used before at work or with friends and family. Examples of this type of software include Microsoft Teams and Zoom, as well as AnyDesk. They could ask you to download the software onto your phone, laptop or computer. This type of scam is also often used by fraudsters who will claim that your computer is infected with some sort of virus. Once you share your screen with them, they can then download the very virus they claimed your computer was infected with initially, and extort you for money.

The scams can only take place if you download the software and allow the scammer to take control of your screen. Once they have access to your screen, they can access online banking or other financial accounts.

How to protect yourself

The usual recommendations apply when it comes to being safe online, but it’s important to remember some key points:

  • Even if you have searched for a company online and contacted the firm, you should never share your screen with them.
  • Scammers may try to build trust, or a sense of security with you. Be wary of being put under pressure to make any decisions – it’s very rare that financial matters need to be dealt with urgently.
  • If you are concerned that you are being approached by a scammer, don’t worry about appearing rude (scammers won’t hesitate to take advantage of your courtesy). Remember, they aren’t someone from a call centre ‘just doing their job’ – they are actively carrying out criminal activity.

As always, please do contact us if you have any doubts or concerns when it comes to financial matters.

Philip Wise | philip@sussexretirement.co.uk

Managing Director and Chartered Financial Planner

This guide is for information purposes and does not constitute financial advice, which should be based on your individual circumstances.
The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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