Tech support scams affected 71% of South African consumers in 2018, down seven points from figures in 2016, according to Microsoft’s latest global research into the phenomenon.
The Global Tech Support Scam Research report examined the incidence and consequences of tech support scams worldwide. The Web-based survey of 16,048 adult internet users in 16 countries (1 000 per country), sampled an equal number of male and female users 18 and older, proportional to the internet user population in each country.
“A tech support scam is a phone call, email or online interaction which appears to be from a reputable company, claiming that your computer is infected with a virus,” says Kethan Parbhoo, Chief Operations and Marketing Officer at Microsoft South Africa.
“Unfortunately, these scams cause consumers to lose money, time and suffer greater life stress. Gen Z, millennials and males had the highest exposure to tech support scams, both globally and in South Africa, in 2018. They were more likely to lose money and engage in riskier online behaviour.”
While the same proportion of South African consumers were fooled by scammers in 2018 as in 2016 fewer reported losing money after they continued, with the percentage who continued and lost money falling from 8% to 4%.
While monetary loss is the most common result of tech support scams they can cause more than just financial damage. According to the research, among those who experienced a scam, 52% ended up spending time checking and repairing their PC and more than three-in-four consumers who continued with a scam reported suffering from moderate to severe stress due to the fraudulent interaction.
“The research suggests that both education and technology can play a role in reducing consumer’s vulnerability to tech support scams. A 12-point drop in scammers asking for identity numbers (or their international equivalents) reflects the power of awareness building and education while increased adoption of ad-blocking technology in recent years has potentially contributed to a significant decline in pop-up ad windows scams.”
The decline of the number of scams in South Africa is symbolic of the global trend where the percentage of consumers who reported experiencing a tech support scam was 63%, down from 68% in 2016. Those who lost money directly from a tech support scam fell 3 points to 6%.
This decline was fueled by fewer pop-up ads or windows.
“Consumers have also developed a healthy skepticism about unsolicited contact from technology and software companies. Unsolicited contact has become a red flag for consumers that signals a potential scam. If faced with an unsolicited contact from a reputable tech company, 38% of consumers would try to block that company from making contact in the future and 33% would look up the issue online, says Parbhoo.