Microsoft Warns That 'Tech Support' Scams are Going Mainstream

By Tom Pritchard on at

In the digital age, every criminal out there is looking for an easy way to separate you from your hard earned cash. One such method involves the so-called 'tech support' scam, and, thanks to the result of a global survey, Microsoft is warning that the practice is going mainstream.

You know the type of scams I'm talking about. Criminals ring you up out of the blue and try to frighten you by claiming your computer has a virus. Often they pretend to be representatives of large companies, and do what they can to gain remote access to your machine and extort money for their 'services'.

These days, however, the scam is moving beyond landline phone calls, spreading to emails, dodgy websites, pop-up ads, and other digital-based methods. For that very reason, it's not just the less tech-savvy older people who are at risk. Microsoft found that people aged 18-34 (the so-called 'millennials') spend a lot of time online, and as such are more trusting of their technology.

So be warned. According to Microsoft 69% of people quizzed in the UK had some experience with the scam. 10% actually fell for the scam instead of hanging up immediately, and 2% followed the criminal instructions to the letter - causing them to lose money in the process.

Compare that to the results from the US, where 33% of people carried on with the scam and 20% ended up losing money. Globally 69% of people has experience with the scammers, with 20% of people falling for it and 9% losing money. Looks like we Brits did all right in the long run then.

Microsoft has reiterated that it will never phone people with tech support issues, as if they could even detect there was a problem in the first place. It also said that people should be inherently suspicious of software or services being offered in this manner, and people should never allow remote access to their machine unless they are 100% sure they are speaking to a legitimate tech support rep (generally that involves you ringing them on an official number).

The easiest way to deal with scams is to hang up, though there are always very amusing stories of people deliberately messing with the scammers in order to waste their time. Do you have any stories like that? Let us know in the comments. [TechRadar]