The survey, comprising 16 countries and 16,254 adult Internet users, found that seven out of 10 in India encountered tech support scams last year. Up to 31% of those who continued to engage in fraudulent interactions lost money in 2021, an increase of 17 points from 2018. Millennials and men were more susceptible to losing money to scams, the survey says.
* In October 2019, the Cybercrime Unit of Kolkata Police raided and closed two call centers in the city.
* In November 2018, Delhi police arrested 63 people in a crackdown on fake call centers.
* In June 2021, three call centers were arrested in Gurugram and, since January 2021, eight of these call centers have been raided in Gurugram and two in Faridabad.
* In July 2021, a fake call center was arrested at Motinagar in Delhi where employees were misleading American citizens by posing as Microsoft representatives.
The modus operandi is simple. Users are contacted posing as executives from a technology major, such as Microsoft or Google. They create a psychosis of fear or convince the user to install software thereby obtaining “remote access” to their devices. Once this is done, the scammers drain the victim’s money.
Microsoft’s global survey, Global Tech Support Scam Research, which looks at tech support scams and their impact on consumers showed that India experienced a relatively high scam rate of 69% in 2021, similar to the 70% rate experienced in 2018. In contrast, there was an overall five-point drop in scam encounters globally during the same period, with a rate of 59% in 2021.
The scam graph goes up
Nearly half of consumers surveyed in India (48%) were tricked into continuing the scam, an increase of eight points from 2018 and three times higher than the global average (16%). One in three (31%) of those surveyed continued to participate and eventually lost money, an increase of 17 points compared to 2018.
In India, millennials (ages 24-37) were the most susceptible to scams in 2021, with 58% of those who continued the scam incurred monetary losses. Up to 73% of men in India who proceeded to interact with a scammer were likely to lose money, according to the survey. Every month, Microsoft receives around 6,500 complaints worldwide from people who have been victims of tech support scams. This is down from the 13,000 reports in an average month in previous years.
How the fraud has spread
To better understand how the problem of tech support scams is evolving globally and to improve efforts to educate consumers on how to stay safe online, Microsoft commissioned this survey in 16 countries, including the four Asia Pacific markets of India, Australia, Japan and Singapore. “Tech support scams take place globally and target people of all ages. The results reveal that, compared to the rest of the world, Indian consumers are more likely to be targeted, less likely to ignore fraudulent interactions, and lose more money as a result. There is an urgent need for consumers to do more and better protect themselves from these types of scams, Mary Jo Schrade, Deputy General Counsel, Regional Leader, Microsoft Asia Digital Crimes Unit, saying.
“The tactics used by scammers to victimize online users 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 take advantage of the survey results to better educate people and help them avoid becoming victims of these scams, ”he added.
According to the study, consumers in India were much more likely to continue scams, regardless of type, compared to global figures. The incidence of unsolicited call scams increased from 23% to 31% in India between 2018 and 2021. This is still the type of scam that consumers in India respond to most frequently, with almost half (45%) of respondents who continue and take the recommended actions. of the scammer. By contrast, global unsolicited call scam rates fell two points over the same period, from 27% in 2018 to 25% in 2021.
While scams involving pop-up ads (51%), website redirects (48%), or unsolicited emails (42%) fell 5%, 1%, and 2% respectively in 2021 compared to 2018, consumers in India were 11%, 16%, and 7% more likely to continue to engage in these types of scams during the same period, respectively.
Consumers in India who lost money to these types of scams in 2021 lost an average of Rs 15,334. However, 88% of those who lost money were able to get something back, averaging Rs 10,797.
The most common payment methods for those who lost money were bank transfers (43%), followed by gift cards (38%), Paypal (32%), credit cards (32%), and Bitcoin (25%). Up to 77% of consumers in India who continued fraudulent interactions and lost money in 2021 reported experiencing moderate or severe stress levels, 8% higher than the world average of 69%.
82% of those who continued with a computer-related scam in 2021 spent time checking or repairing their computers, slightly higher than the global average of 76%. It is crucial to carry out checks, as some scammers have been known to install malware on computers, allowing them to maintain remote access to people’s computers long after victims believed the interaction was over.
Millennials in India who continue with a scam were more likely to lose money (58%) in all age groups, followed by Gen Zers (24%). Men were also identified as the most affected and most likely to have lost money due to these types of scams. 73% of men in India who continued these types of tech support scams in 2021 lost money on the interaction, compared to 27% of women. “Millennials are more engaged online, so they would likely be more exposed to scammers. Survey results showed that millennials are more likely to visit riskier websites, such as torrent sites or places where they download music or movies. “said Jo Schrade.
Why are Indians vulnerable?
The high rate of victimization from these types of scams is likely due to Indian consumers being more relying on unsolicited contact and more inclined to believe that a business would initiate the contact.
Of those surveyed in 2021, 47% thought it was very or somewhat likely that a business would contact them via an unsolicited call, a pop-up, a text message, an ad, or an email, and this is an increase 15 points compared to 2018 (32%). Consumers across India also rated their computer experience highly, regardless of age group, and this suggests an overconfidence in computer skills.
“Tech support scams will continue to be a challenge for the entire industry until enough people are informed about these scams and can avoid them. The best way for consumers in India and Asia Pacific to protect themselves is to know that these scammers are targeting people, to be suspicious of any unsolicited contact from suspected tech company employees, and to avoid allowing people they don’t know to remotely access. their computers, ”said Jo Schrade. .
Impact of the pandemic
Has the Covid Pandemic Helped Increase Scams in India? “Yes it does. People work from home all over the world, perhaps sharing computers with their children who are doing school work. This increases vulnerabilities, especially if risky behavior, such as accessing torrent sites, is performed in a computer someone uses for work purposes, “said Jo Schrade.
However, he added, scammers target anywhere they can make money, so educating people to help them avoid falling victim to scammers is critical.