Microsoft has revealed that the incidence of tech support scams globally has declined with Singapore among the most savvy countries when it comes to dealing with such scams, behind Japan, China, and Germany.
The results formed part of a global survey conducted by Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit with 16,048 respondents globally, including 1,000 from Singapore.
Furthermore, the results indicated that while such scams have seen a decline since 2016, three in five people reported experiencing a tech support scam in the past year, while one in five reported losing money due to those scams.
“While consumers in Singapore have shown that they are increasingly more knowledgeable about tech support scams, it is important to note that tech support scam methods will continue to evolve,” noted Richard Koh, chief technology officer of Microsoft Singapore.
“Always remember that companies like Microsoft will never proactively reach out to consumers to provide unsolicited PC or technical support and do take action to report a scam to the authorities whenever you encounter one.
"At Microsoft, our Digital Crimes Unit uses a data-driven approach to investigate tech support fraud networks and work with law enforcement to combat them.
"At the same time, we are always making sure that we continue to strengthen our products and services to better protect consumers from the constantly-evolving nature of fraudulent practices."
Overall, 57 per cent of Singapore consumers said that they have encountered a tech support scam in the form of an unsolicited call, redirect to website, unsolicited email or a pop-up ad or window in 2018, a significant decline from the 65 per cent who encountered one in 2016.
Furthermore, 43 per cent of Singapore respondents chose not to interact with scammers behind Japan (65 per cent), China (57 per cent) and Germany (48 per cent).
However, 15 per cent continued interacting with scammers after encountering a tech support scam with only four per cent of the respondents losing money as a result of tech support scams in 2018, down from the seven per cent who lost money as a result of the issue in 2016.
Surprisingly, however, were that despite being a relatively tech savvy generation, millennials between the ages of 24 and 37 were discovered to be the most prone to tech support scams, followed by Gen X (38 to 53), Gen Z (aged 18 to 23) and baby boomers (aged 54 and above).
As such the millennial generation were more likely to believe that the unsolicited contact by scammers was normal compared to other generations, even baby boomers, aged 54 and above.
Furthermore, male consumers were also found to be more vulnerable to tech support scams, as compared to females.
In regards to those who lost their money as the result of such scams, the survey documented the activities that led to their monetary loss including sharing email information in exchange for content, downloading movies, music and videos, or visiting torrent sites; a long list well documented risky online behaviour that ultimately increases their likelihood of falling foul to potential scams.
Perhaps the millennial generation’s status as the most prone to such scams is not such a surprise after all given their propensity for such behaviour.
Monetary loss was not the only impact such scams had on its victims with half of the Singaporean respondents who continued engaging with scammers ended up spending time checking or repairing their computers, while 81 per cent of Singaporean respondents reported moderate to severe levels of stress as a result, impacting their mental well-being.
The most common types of tech support scam in Singapore are pop-up ads, ahead of redirect to website, unsolicited emails and unsolicited phone calls.