Security

How to train your employees to avoid online scams: 5 tips

According to Microsoft, online scammers are still tricking people with tech support scams, but there are ways to stay safe.

Online tech support scams are still a major problem, according to recent Microsoft research released Monday, and Generation Z and Millennial users are the most likely to fall victim to these schemes.

In a Monday press release from the Redmond giant, these findings about younger generation users mirror what was found in the 2016 report on the same topic. Despite this trend, consumers overall are less susceptible to these scams and are losing less money to them than they have in the past, the release said.

Of those surveyed, 38% said they would try to block even a reputable compact after unsolicited contact. Instead, 33% said they would just look up their problem online and try to find a fix.

SEE: Information security policy (Tech Pro Research)

These respondents were actively searching for known scams as well, with 46% of them using search engines to look them up and 31% searching the websites of the companies involved in the scams, the release said.

However, it's still a huge problem, with about 20% of consumers engaging with a tech support scammer and some of those losing money. Microsoft receives about 11,000 complaints a month from victims of tech support scams, the release noted.

Doug Shadel, state director of AARP, said in the press release that victims will detail someone calling them to explain something is wrong with their computer or a robocall threatening to cut off service or warning a user they've been hacked. Out of fear, some engage with the scam and offer up personal data or money to fix their nonexistent problem.

If you fear that your customers or employees (who should be going to IT with their problems, but that's another story) may fall victim to one of these scams, Microsoft recommends offering the following five pieces of advice:

  1. Don't engage with any unsolicited pop-up—don't click on it or call any number listed.
  2. Keep in mind that most tech companies, Microsoft included, will not ever proactively reach out to offer technical support.
  3. Only give computer access to a third-party if you know the person is a legitimate support agent or representative from an actual company where you are a customer.
  4. If you are concerned about the legitimacy of a call concerning a tech product, hang up the phone and contact that company directly.
  5. If you believe you may have fallen victim to a support scam, report it to the company whose product it involves and file a report with police and the consumer protection authority.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Tech support scams are still rampant, with Generation Z and Millennials most likely to fall victim. — Microsoft, 2018
  • Microsoft receives 11,000 complaints per month from people who have been the victim of tech support scams that purported to represent major tech companies.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/jariyawat thinsandee

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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