7 in 10 Indian consumers hit by tech support scams last year: Microsoft report

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Around 69 per cent Indian consumers were targeted by tech support scams in the last 12 months, second-highest in the world after Brazil, according to a survey by Microsoft. The report showed a rising trend in scams through unsolicited calls, while pop-up ads or windows accounted for the highest scam interaction in during the past year.

Microsoft’s Global Tech Support Scam Research, found that globally fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 edition of the survey. People are generally more skeptical about tech support calls or pop-up messages, which saved them from falling victim to these scams.

However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey, Microsoft said.

Globally, there was an five-point drop in tech support scam encounters with a rate of 59 per cent over the last year.

Microsoft had commissioned YouGov for this global survey involving 16 countries, and a sample size of 16,254 adult internet users (about 1,000 per country). This was a follow-up to similar surveys that Microsoft fielded in 2018 and 2016.

The survey showed that 31 per cent Indian consumers lost their money after continuing interactions with scamsters, the biggest increase this year and more than double of 14 per cent seen in the 2018 version of the survey. The most common modes of payment for those who lost money to such scams were bank transfers at 43 per cent, followed by gift cards (38 per cent), PayPal (32 per cent), credit cards (32 per cent), and Bitcoin (25 per cent).

Indian consumers who did lose money to such scams in 2021 lost 15,334 on average. However, 88 per cent of those who lost any money were able to recover some back, with the average recovery amount being 10,797.

People who continued and did not lose money were 17 per cent of the sample group in India, substantially lower than 26 per cent seen in 2018. People who ignored the scamsters’ efforts also fell to 21 per cent in 2021 from 30 per cent in 2018. Meanwhile, the likelihood to trust an unsolicited contact rose 15 points to 47 per cent in 2021, as compared to 2018.

Unsolicited calls by scamsters registered an eight-point surge in India to account for 31 per cent of overall incidence. In contrast, global scam encounter rates for unsolicited calls fell from 27 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2021.

It was seen that the respondents in India were most likely to respond to unsolicited telephone calls (45 per cent), as opposed to to a pop-up window or ad on their PC screen (33 per cent), unsolicited emails (36 per cent) and redirection to another website (30 per cent).

Globally, those who lost money reported higher engagement in risky online activities and overestimated their abilities with respect to using computers and the internet, noted Microsoft.

Similar to the 2018 results, younger people fell prey to tech support scams more often, Gen Zers and millennials in particular, as well as males. This also correlated to higher engagement than older generations in riskier online activities, such as using torrent sites and sharing email addresses in exchange for content, the survey stated.

While more consumers were asked to divulge government-issued identification number as compared to 2018, there was an increase in the number of consumers reporting fraudulent use of credit or debit cards, accounting for the increase in money lost.

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