Indians are more vulnerable to technology support-related scams compared to the global average, and lost over Rs 15,000 on average in such scams, a Microsoft research has found.
According to the 2021 Global Tech Support Scam Research report, which looks at tech support scams and their impact on consumers, consumers in India experienced a relatively high scam encounter rate of 69 per cent during the past 12 months, close to the 70 per cent rate experienced in 2018. In contrast, there was an overall five-point drop in scam encounters globally with a rate of 59 per cent over the same period.
The survey was conducted in Spring 2021 and asked consumers to share their experiences with tech support scams for the year prior (January 2020 to present).
Almost half the consumers surveyed in India (48 per cent) were tricked into continuing with the scam – an eight-point increase from 2018, and three times higher than the global average of 16 per cent. One in three (31 per cent) of those surveyed continued engaging and eventually lost money–an increase of 17 points over 2018 (14 per cent).
In India, millennials, or those aged 24-37, were the most susceptible to such scams in 2021, with 58 per cent of those that continued with the scam incurring monetary loss. The research also found that 73 per cent of males in India who proceeded to interact with a scammer were likely to lose money.
Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints globally from people who have fallen victim to a tech support scam; this is down from 13,000 reports in an average month in earlier years. To better understand how the problem with tech support scams is evolving globally and to enhance efforts to educate consumers on how to stay safe online, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for this global survey in 16 countries, including four Asia Pacific markets – India, Australia, Japan and Singapore. This is a follow-up to similar surveys that Microsoft conducted in 2018 and 2016.
Consumers in India lost Rs 15,334 on average in such scams, the report found. However, 88 per cent of those who lost any money were able to recover some of it, with the average being Rs 10,797. The most common methods of payment for those who lost any money were bank transfers (43 per cent), gift cards (38 per cent), PayPal (32 per cent), credit cards (32 per cent), and Bitcoin (25 per cent).
“Tech support scams are perpetrated globally and target people of all ages. Findings reveal that compared to the rest of the world, consumers in India are more likely to be targeted, less inclined to ignore scam interactions, and as a result, lose more money. There is an urgent need for consumers to understand this threat and to protect themselves from such scams. Tactics used by fraudsters to victimize users online have evolved over time, from pure cold calling to more sophisticated ploys, such as fake “pop-ups” displayed on people’s computers. We are committed to online safety and hope to leverage the survey findings to better educate people so they can avoid becoming victims of these scams,” said Mary Jo Schrade, Assistant General Counsel, Regional Lead, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Asia.
The survey also found that Indian consumers were much more likely to continue with scams, regardless of type, as compared with other nationals. Incidents of unsolicited call scams rose from 23 per cent to 31 per cent in India between 2018 to 2021, and this continues to be the scam type that consumers in India respond to most often. Almost half (45 per cent) of those surveyed continuing and taking recommended actions from the scammer. In contrast, global scam encounter rates for unsolicited calls fell two points during the same period, from 27 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2021.
While scams involving pop-up ads (51 per cent), redirects to websites (48 per cent), or unsolicited emails (42 per cent) fell 5 per cent, 1 per cent, and 2 per cent respectively in 2021 compared with 2018, consumers in India were 11 per cent, 16 per cent, and 7 per cent more likely to continue engaging with such scams over the same period respectively.
Millennials in India who continue with a scam were most likely to lose money (58 per cent) across all age groups, followed by Gen Zers (24 per cent). Males were also identified to be the hardest hit and most likely to have lost money because of such scams. As many as 73 per cent of males in India who continued with such tech support scams in 2021 lost money in the interaction, in contrast with 27 per cent females.
The high number of people falling victim to scams is likely due to consumers in India being more trusting of unsolicited contact and more inclined to believe that a company would initiate contact. Of those surveyed in 2021, 47 per cent thought that it was very or somewhat likely that a company would contact them via an unsolicited call, pop-up, text message, ad or email, and this is a 15-point increase from 2018 (32 per cent). Consumers across India also rated their computer experience highly, regardless of age group, and this suggests over-confidence in computer literacy skills.