— ploys to trick and defraud web users — are a growing headache. Two out of three consumers online encountered some kind of tech support scam in the last year, according to a new global survey from and Ipsos, a survey-based research group.
And the most vulnerable group is not the age you might expect.
In general, one out of five people surveyed admitted they did not immediately recognize a tech support scam when they encountered one, and continued their interaction, meaning they clicked on a link, visited a malicious website, downloaded software, gave the scammers remote access to their device, or provided credit card information or other payments to strangers. Eleven percent opted out before they lost money, while 9 percent admitted they did lose money to scammers.
The survey also revealed that young people, in particular, aren’t as savvy as you might think at avoiding tech support scams — and baby boomers don’t get the credit they deserve for safely navigating these online threats.
Controlling for levels of exposure, millennials fared far worse at avoiding tech support scams than their older counterparts.
Among those who were exposed to tech support scams, more than a third of those between the ages of 18 and 24, and 43 percent of those ages 25 to 34, fell victim to scammers.
In contrast, older customers seemed to keep their guard up. Among those ages 55 to 65, just 16 percent of those exposed to tech support scams fell victim. And in the over-65 group, 17 percent fell into the scammers’ traps.
Tech support scams range from unsolicited phone calls to unsolicited emails to pop-up ads to website re-directs. The most common tech support scam comes through software downloads or visits to malicious sites, Microsoft said.
Unsurprisingly, young adults ages 18 to 34, who spend so much of their lives online, encountered tech support scams at the highest rates compared to those in older age brackets.
Tech scams hit customers in India, China and the U.S. the hardest, the survey found, while customers in Australia and Canada were targeted much less. The survey sampled 1,000 adults ages 18 and older online, with respondents from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Singapore, South Africa and the United States.
The survey specifically asked customers whether they’ve been targeted by scammers falsely presenting themselves as Microsoft representatives, a massive problem for the technology company. In the past two years, Microsoft has heard from over 175,000 customers complaining about tech support scams. The con artists often demand payment to “fix” the computers they’ve hacked.