'Once they have access to your screen, they have complete control'. Watch out for these screen-sharing scams

Promises of investment windfalls and Bitcoin have seen a rise in people allowing cyber criminals to use remote desktop software to access their online accounts - which then get drained.
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer

Cyber criminals are stealing millions by luring victims into investment scams and then using remote screen-sharing software to steal money, bank details and other personal information. 

According to research by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the number of screen-sharing scams has almost doubled over the course of a year – and almost half of investors wouldn't be able to identify that they're being duped by one. That's resulted in over £25 million in losses in the UK alone. 

Many of the attacks target potential investors – including those looking to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency – because if cyber criminals can successfully trick these high-value targets into falling for scams, they can steal significant amounts of money in one go.

Of those surveyed by the FCA, 91% said they would never share their PIN with a stranger, but 85% wouldn't think a request by a website to use or download software could be a warning sign that someone was seeking to gain illegal access to personal information on their computer or smartphone. That's providing scammers with opportunities.  

SEE: How to keep your bank details and finances more secure online

In one case, a victim clicked on an online advertisement for Bitcoin and then later received a phone call from someone claiming to be a financial advisor who offered to help her through making her first investment in cryptocurrency. The 'advisor' asked her to download remote desktop screen-sharing software, which provided the scammers with the ability to access financial details and other sensitive information on her computer. 

The victim lost more than £48,000 after scammers raided her bank account, her pension and used her stolen details to fraudulently apply for loans. 

The FCA says this is just one of thousands of cases that have been reported to its Consumer Helpline, where cyber criminals have used screen-sharing platforms such as Teams, TeamViewer and Zoom to trick users into handing over remote control of their computers. Not only is this a financial risk due to loss of money, it's also a privacy risk as scammers could also use that access to steal usernames and passwords for a variety of online accounts. 

"Once scammers gain [access] 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," said Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA. 

"It can affect any investor, no matter how experienced. It's incredibly difficult to get money back once lost in this way," he added. 

The best way to avoid falling victim to screen-sharing scams is to not share your screen with any 'investment' advisors who ask you to, because it's a big indicator that they're a scammer. "Legitimate firms will not ask you to do this," said Steward. 

The FCA also runs a warning list that people can check to see if the firm they're dealing with isn't authorised or registered by the FCA, while it also lists firms that are known to be running scams.  


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