THE first news of the week is that Citizens Advice is preparing for it’s National Scam Awareness Fortnight 2022, running from the 13th to 26th of this month. We hope to provide lots of useful information and advice to help everyone become a “counter-scammer.”
Meanwhile, I read that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is warning people to beware of people posing as investment advisers and offering to help them set up new schemes via online meeting platforms
Since so many of us have been working from home, we have become used to screen sharing for online meetings etc. This increasing use of video conferencing and remote platforms for both work and socialising has meant that scammers are making increasing use of requests for screen sharing. Many investors, both young and old, are agreeing to share their online banking or investment portfolio with someone they have never met. The scammersask their victim to share the screen and enable remote access - which hands over control of their device and, potentially their bank account.
Remote access software is a legitimate tool to enable services such as IT support to troubleshoot problems without being in the room.
But scammers are increasingly hijacking this familiarity to lure victims into granting access to more than just a picture of their screen.
They are then persuaded to grant the fraudsters control of their computer, by either expanding permissions or downloading remote access software, giving them direct access to online bank accounts. It also means they can install their own malware, giving them full access at any time.
The criminals do this under the guise of being helpful - offering to set up a new investment scheme and monitor it.
One scam victim, who wished to remain anonymous, says she lost thousands of pounds to scammers after trying to find new investments to grow her savings.
She was called by a seemingly legitimate investment company in spring 2021 and told she could see a sizeable return on an initial £250 investment by downloading remote access software and letting the firm do the rest.
"They didn't say [the software] was anything other than an investment tool, and so I had no idea what it would actually do," she said.
Over the following six months, the woman was encouraged to make more investments as graphs and information from scammers saw her ‘blinded by science’ and led her to believe her investments were paying off.
But by that time, the scammers had drained her pension fund by £48,000 and taken out a further £40,000 of loans in her name.
The FCA's ScamSmart website has advice. and if you are approached by potential scammers to help you with online investing, first check out the FCA advice on their website at https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/screen-sharing-scams
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