Youngsters more likely to be scam victims than pensioners, study reveals

Young people are more likely to fall victim to online scams than pensioners because they are more trusting while using the internet, new research has revealed.

While those aged 18 to 34 often believe they are more experienced with technology than older people, this also means they can be lured into a false sense of security, with scammers tricking them into clicking links in emails and pop-up windows that allow access to devices and expose personal information.

Around 13% of 18 to 24-year-olds across the world have lost money to online and telephone scams over the past year, rising to one-in-five people in the 25 to 34 age group, according to Microsoft’s study, which looked at 12,000 people in 12 countries and was released as part of Cyber Security Awareness Month. This compares with just 3% of people aged over 65.

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Experience with, and impact of, tech support scams is greater among younger people

Fraudsters are increasingly using so-called “tech support scams” to extract money from victims, which falsely warn people that their computer or device has a problem that needs to be fixed. Internet users then download software, visit a scam website, give the fraudsters remote access to their device or provide credit card information or another form of payment.

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Criminals are also opting to launch such attacks over the internet, rather than the traditional method of cold-calling homes.

Just 23% of 18 to 24-year-olds received an unsolicited phone call from criminals in the past year, rising to 29% for 25 to 34-year-olds. However, these figures jump to 50% and 49% respectively when those people were asked if they had been redirected to a scamming website. Around 59% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 58% of 25 to 34-year-olds globally experienced a fraudulent pop-up or advert while online.

However, British internet users are much more security conscious than most countries. While 69% of people in this country experienced a tech support scam over the past year, just 2% of them lost money.

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Interaction types by age groups

In India, 80% of people had come into contact with a tech scam, with 22% of those losing money. The US was almost as bad, with 79% of people reporting they had come across a scam, and 21% of them saying they were out of pocket as a result.

Germany emerged as the best country for tackling cyber scams, with 49% of people reporting that they had never been contacted by a fraudster via telephone or online.

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Experience with, and impact of, tech scams varies widely by market

Microsoft is committed to providing a safe digital experience for every person and organisation on the planet. It is helping to educate consumers about the growing problem of tech support scams by providing guidance and resources on how to identify, avoid and report them. In addition, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit investigates fraud and tech support scams targeting unsuspecting customers, and supports law enforcement and government consumer protection agencies that take legal action against known scammers.

Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you. For more information on how to protect yourself, visit www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/phishing-scams.aspx.

If you receive a notification or call from someone claiming to be from a reputable software company:

  • Do not purchase any software or services
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service”. If there is, hang up
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer
  • Take the person’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities or Action Fraud.