The most substantial victims of tech support scams probably aren't who you'd expect—they're young users. A new report from Microsoft found that users age 18-34, sometimes referred to as millennials, are more likely to follow through on a tech support scam and more likely to lose money in the process.
This flies in the face of one of the prevalent stereotypes that older users are more likely to be taken advantage of through cold calls, unsolicited emails, or pop-up ads. Users age 25-34 were the most likely to continue with a tech support scam and lose money, with 18% claiming they had been financially impacted. Secondly, 13% of 18-24 year-old users reported that they had lost money through a tech support scam.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 3% of users who listed their age as 55-65, or users who listed their age as 66+ years old, had lost money by continuing with a scam. That number was 5% for 45-54 year-old users, and 11% for users aged 35-44.
As noted by ZDNet's Liam Tung, citing another security survey, the main culprit in attracting younger users to these scams in pop-up ads. Older users are still more likely to be tricked by a fraudulent phone call, but millennial users fall victim to pop-ups more often. Users 18-34 were also more likely to be redirected to a fake website.
Across all age groups, the type of fraudulent interactions experienced broke down as follows:
- Unsolicited call - 30%
- Pop-up or online ad - 49%
- Unsolicited email - 39%
- Redirected to website - 37%
Microsoft's survey also looked at the geographic impact of such scams. According to the report, "The results indicate a strong focus on US, India, and China." However, it also noted that Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore are next in the list in terms of potential impact.
The US and India were also the most willing to believe that Microsoft would make initial contact for support, and the most likely to trust an unsolicited call or email. However, for example, only 1% or users in Great Britain believed it would be very likely that Microsoft would initiate contact.
As many have noted, it's worth pointing out that Microsoft itself has said that it won't reach out to you for support without prompting.
"Remember, Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support," the Microsoft support page said. "Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you."
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- According to a new report from Microsoft, younger users are more likely to be duped by tech support scams and lose money in the process.
- Young users are more likely to fall victim to pop-up ads, but older users are affected more greatly by unsolicited phone calls.
- Reminder: Microsoft will never initiate a tech support conversation with a user.
- Windows 10 Anniversary Update: The new features heading your way (TechRepublic)
- Unauthorized, mislabeled Microsoft support tool leaks; could cause more trouble than it cures (ZDNet)
- Windows 10: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- New Microsoft Windows support changes: What they mean to business users (ZDNet)
- Microsoft to end support for Windows 7 and 8 on new PC hardware (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.