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India Sees the Highest Number of Tech Support Scams, Reveals Microsoft

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India has witnessed a significantly high rate of tech support scams at nearly 70 percent in the last 12 months – among the highest globally – with a significant increase seen in scams stemming from unsolicited calls, according to a recent Microsoft survey. That’s a matter of concern, more so, because globally, there was an overall five-point drop in such scam with a rate of 59 percent over the same period.

Microsoft commissioned YouGov for this global survey in 16 countries, finds that 48 percent of the respondents in India were tricked into continuing with the scam – an eight-point increase from its 2018 survey, and three times higher than the global average (16 percent).

India is followed by the US and Mexico, and Australia, where 10 percent and 9 percent of the people respectively lost money through a tech support scam, the report says.

The most common methods of payment for those who lost any money were through bank transfers (43 per  cent), followed by gift cards (38 percent), PayPal (32 percent), credit cards (32 percent), and Bitcoin (25 percent).

Microsoft said 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 percent said they 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.

Interestingly, incidences of unsolicited call scams increased from 23 percent to 31 percent in India between 2018 and 2021, and this continues to be the scam type that consumers in India respond to most often.

The report noted that respondents in India were most likely to respond to unsolicited telephone calls (45 percent) as compared to a pop-up window or ad on their computer screen (33 percent), unsolicited emails (36 percent) and redirection to another website (30 percent). In contrast, global scam encounter rates for unsolicited calls fell from 27 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2021.

Microsoft said that each month it receives about 6,500 complaints globally from people who have been the victim of a tech support scam, which is down from 13,000 reports in an average month in prior years. However, the number of such reports emanating from India is low.

“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,” Mary Jo Schrade, Assistant General Counsel (Regional Lead) at Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Asia, said in a virtual briefing.

She added that 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.

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