A Microsoft-commissioned study by YouGov revealed that Millennials, Gen X and males are most likely to fall victim to scams as 42% of those who continued with scam interactions were Gen X and 37% were Millennials. The study — conducted among 16,254 adult internet users in 16 countries around the world with approximately 1,000 respondents per nation — also revealed that 13% of respondents who were drawn to a scam belong to Gen Z.
Compared to females, males have higher chances of continuing with a scam. 58% of people who engaged with a scam were males, 16 points higher than the statistic for females.
Gen Z was the most exposed to computer-related scams due to their level of online activity but this age group was the least likely to fall for schemes as 73% of Gen Z respondents expressed that they have expert or advanced levels of computer literacy.
"One of the reasons we think Gen Z might be more likely to encounter a scam of some sort is just their level of activity online and these things that we're talking about here are not high-risk activities except for the use of torrent sites. The others are just things that you normally do online," said Mary Jo Schrade, Assistant General Counsel and Regional Lead of Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Asia.
This is true for Singaporean youths, who are the most exposed to computer-related scam interactions but are one of the least likely age groups to engage with a scam.
In Singapore, more consumers became a target of technical support scams in the last 12 months, higher than the global average. Singaporeans also experienced almost twice as many unsolicited calls this year compared to 2018 figures. In 2021, 34% of Singaporeans encountered an unsolicited call versus the 19% statistic recorded in 2018.
Despite a rise in scam exposure, the number of people in Singapore continuing with a scam and losing money from it hasn't changed much. In 2018, 15% of Singaporeans interacted with a scam while that figure only dropped by one point in 2021.
Three years ago, 4% of Singaporeans lost money due to a scam. This year, the statistic rose by just one point. On average, they pay approximately S$114 to fraudsters. They also sustain non-monetary impacts such as suffering from moderate or severe stress. Those who continued with a computer-related scam have dedicated time to check or repair their PC afterwards.
Microsoft advised consumers to be vigilant of scams, meaning that they should be wary when it comes to unsolicited contact and avoid clicking or calling numbers on pop-up messages. Other ways people can prevent themselves from being scammed are to download software only through official channels and use a trusted internet browser that can block and/or alert the user of potential scams.
As impersonation scams involving fraudsters passing themselves off as Microsoft technical support staff have claimed several victims, the company said that it does not call users to inform them of computer viruses on their computer. If you have fallen victim to such a scam, then you can report your experiences to Microsoft or local authorities.
Schrade also advised internet users to have conversations with loved ones about scams to help prevent the likelihood of fraud victimisation.
"I think that just helping people have that discussion in advance of an encounter, I'm hopeful (it) would help them be able to draw on that knowledge when they have an encounter so that they're not in a panic mode just listening to what the person is telling them, the scammer is telling them but that they could go back and draw from their learning at a time when they weren't stressed to help them during a stressful time with the scam encounter," said Schrade.
For the past two years, Microsoft has received approximately 6,500 complaints monthly from people around the world who have faced a technical support scam. In prior years, Microsoft recorded around 13,000 reports on such a scam.
However, Schrade said that the drop in complaints could either be attributed to the number of incidents declining or people's unwillingness to report a scam.
Written by Sophia Lopez
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