back to article Tech support scams subside somewhat, but Millennials and Gen Z think they're bulletproof and suffer

Tech support scam attempts dropped in frequency over the past two years, but remain a threat. And Millennials and Gen Z – not Boomers – fall prey most frequently, according to Microsoft in its 2021 Global Tech Support Scam Research report, released Thursday. Tech support scams involve cybercriminals convincing users they have …

  1. Pierson

    Gen X here, and the last tech support scammer to grace my landline was greeted with "You? I thought it was five years! Didn't you get five years?"

    Unfortunately the Blues Brothers reference floated straight over his head, so I had no choice but to call him a ***t and hang up.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      The average El Reg read is probably more aware of scams - many others may not.

      I've seen lately many young people falling in "Buy iPhone at half the price directly from Cupertino" and "How to pay 30% only on Amazon sales" scams.

      The difference is that older people probably call the police far more than younger ones.

      1. Godgifu

        I'm 79. I don't call the police when I get a scammer on the phone; I call the scammer a scammer and hang up. I don't just delete an emailed scam; I report it as "Phishing" and then delete it. If I'm not sure, I ask my husband, the Old Used Programmer, to look at it; and he points out that the sender's address is fake, and then I delete it.

    2. Lil Endian

      Blues Brothers

      Perhaps you could've made it easier for the scammer with "Did you get me my Cheez Wiz, boy?".

      I do like playing dumb with these guys, and that fits the bill!

      +1 for the smack down tho ;)

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Make them hang up

      And try to keep them on the line as long as possible.

      Protect the weak, ruin their business case, make them waste as much resources as you can. Report them to OFCOM too, not that it'll help directly but it might eventually force OFCOM to act against the carriers who keep accepting call termination fees.

      Worst case, the scammers blacklist your number among each other and you stop getting the calls.

      1. jgarbo
        Meh

        Re: Make them hang up

        Better. I usually say, "Very interesting, just let me turn down the TV." Then let him hang on. No accusation, no revenge. Thai style punishment. Neglect with plausible deniability.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      I kept pestering them with "cmon - seriously? Do people fall for this?", he persisted with "sir, no sir, we are legitimate microsoft agents" for a couple of minutes. I then asked him if they actually made any money and he finally cracked and said "yeah, we get loads of people - you should work with us"!

      1. jgarbo
        Thumb Down

        But you're wasting your time as much as his. Silly.

  2. Clive Galway

    "Indian netizens continued interacting with scammers a staggering 49 per cent of the time"

    I have spoken to dozens of them (My dad is inundated with them - to the point where we have had to take serious measures to lock his PC down), and in my experience, the vast majority of them ARE Indian.

    Also, judging by the content of a lot of YouTube scam baiters (Jim Browning and the like), a disproportionately large amount of the ones they deal with are Indian.

    I also suspect that the figures wrt age demographics are way off - nobody I know under 50 has fallen prey to them, and I know numerous over-50s who have.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "the vast majority of them ARE Indian."

      It's probably the local language that makes them less suspicious.

    2. teknopaul Silver badge

      iPhone scams

      I know a lot of under 50's who fell for the iPhone from Cupertino scam, and then bought one each for the kids and an iPad.

      The moment they saw the guaranteed 30% more expensive than necessary banner ad they gave these punks their credit card details .

    3. marcellothearcane

      Statistics

      Might be out because a lot of the over-50s still don't realise they were scammed.

      Jim Browning has (had) a few videos where victims refused to believe him, until he made them check through their bank statements for missing lumps of cash...

  3. Lil Endian

    From MS: "...23% for both age groups."

    I'm a bit surprised that Millennials are on par with Gen Xers. I would've thought Millennials would be a bit more savvy, due to an extra bit of worldy wisdom, but mainly as they probably had their formative years using more traditional learning methods, eg. pens and real books (ie. not tech reliant). While Gen Xers are unfortunately well conditioned to click through.

    The overall problem (?) being that they're (both groups I guess) largely self taught, but from a user's point of view rather than IT oriented. I suppose education wasn't quite well enough established to "save" the Millennials at the time, and the Gen Xers suffer more from Dunning-Kruger as an offset to a more established IT education.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      "I would've thought Millennials would be a bit more savvy"

      You're getting it wrong - "GenX" came before "Millennials".

      The problem anyway is not your age - but how you approached technology. Those thinking it's some kind of "magic box" - no matter how good they are in using the application they need - can be easier preys for scammers.

      It's no different from a bad car repair shop that can easily add unneeded repairs to someone who doesn't understand car mechanics.

      The fact that younger people were born after computing devices became common, doesn't shield them from those kind of scams. We're talking about people who made the "influencer" a job and believe any idiocy they sprout. and call an internet connection "WiFi".

      In some ways, being so reliant on their devices, and having so many data on them, could make them more worried about them, and so fall in those traps, when well laid down.

      1. Lil Endian
        Facepalm

        Re: "I would've thought Millennials would be a bit more savvy"

        "You're getting it wrong - "GenX" came before "Millennials"."

        Thanks for the correction.

        Other than that, if I reverse that simple mistake, you appear to be agreeing with me. You surely aren't denying that there's a correlation between age and an approach to tech? That's entirely the inference from the article!

        [Icon - silly me! I'm Gen X after all :) ]

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "denying that there's a correlation between age and an approach to tech?"

          The approach to tech changes as the tech becomes ordinary since it was introduced.

          We have the "pioneer phase", when tech is complex and expensive, only dedicated people use it, and they are forced to learn a lot about it.

          Then we have the "experts phase" - tech is increasingly diffused - but it's still expensive and difficult enough user have to learn enough about how it works. Here expert may start to help other people to use the tech without understanding much about it.

          Finally, there is the "common people phase" when tech is diffused cheap, and easy to use enough everybody use it without learning much about how it works.

          In any group you can have people of different age groups, although it's clear that when a technology enters the third phase, most people from the other two became older - but will be a minority.

          In the third phase you have both older people who use the technology only now because it became easier, and younger one who use it because it's there with no need to understand it much. And because they will be much more than in the previous phases, they are a good target for scammers.

          It happened with other technologies, not only computing - even if computing does allow this kind of remote scams for its very nature.

          1. Lil Endian
            Facepalm

            Re: "denying that there's a correlation between age and an approach to tech?"

            Erm, just realised I'm an even bigger muppet, as I was meaning to write "Gen Z" rather than "Gen X".

            So now I need two of these (lawl) ---->

          2. J. Cook Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "denying that there's a correlation between age and an approach to tech?"

            ... And now I've got "September Love" (flipboitamidles's excellent mashup of "Digital Love" by Daft Punk and "September" by Earth, Wind, & Fire) running through my head, as an homage to the Eternal September that is the Internet currently.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. HildyJ Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "I would've thought Millennials would be a bit more savvy"

        The problem is that they see devices as subject to viruses, ransomware, emergency patches, etc.

        Tech support scams just aren't on their radar. They are too old school. So they bite.

        It's like the Gen generation falling for the Sugar Baby scam which is just the Nigerian Prince scam updated for the internet.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "I would've thought Millennials would be a bit more savvy"

        "The problem anyway is not your age - but how you approached technology."

        This. In conversation with a lady the other day, taking about tech and the 'net in general, her attitude was "well, I'm 60, how am I supposed to know about all this stuff". I pointed out I was only a year younger than her, did O level and A level Computer studies at school and have worked with computers all my life. She was shocked and spluttered something along the lines of "did they have computers back then?"

        It suspect, for my age group, it very much depends on what jobs we have done over the last 40 years. There's many jobs that don't use computers at all and people never come into contact with them. At least not knowingly. Many deal with computers on a daily basis but don't realise it because they use "appliances", eg cash registers, stock look ups, bar code scanners or any of the many other computing items that people get shown how to use but never really associate with computers and technology.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Many people who drive cars think they are professional racers

      Same with computers. Amateurs often think they are professionals. Age doesn't mater.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    18 to 37 were the most likely to continue interactions

    in my, highly unqualified opinion, it's more likely to do with the fact that the young ones, are comfy with their mobiles, while 'computers' are an awkward, alien landscape they know (and care) little about, so they're easier to fool than the wrinklies.

  5. Jamesit

    I try to keep them on the phone as long as I can, I've been called an arsehole and told to fuck off by them:-). for wasting their time.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Wasting their time

      Thank you for doing that public service, but do you not have anything better to do ?

      One thing that would help is restricting those who can set the originating 'phone number to approved organisations - they all seem to (apparently) call from a UK number. OFCOM is asleep on the job.

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: Wasting their time

        Years ago while programming T1 boards I learned that I could set whatever I wanted for the 'A' (originating) number. The network didn't check and just accepted anything. I don't know if it's still as wide open as it once was, but I get plenty of calls with fake originating numbers so it's still a problem.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Wasting their time

          Yes, and with SIP it's trivially easy- 99% of the spam, scam, and crap phone calls I get have forged caller ID numbers.

          The bad part is when they are spoofing a number that's actually being used, and the poor person gets a flood of angry callers demanding to know why they are calling an entire prefix worth's of phone numbers (~10,000) in under 10 seconds...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Wasting their time

        Unless you need the phone for something else you don't need to spend your time wasting theirs.

        "That sounds very interesting. Oh, there's someone at the door. Could you hold on a minute & I'll be back."

        Eventually hang up the phone.

        One salesman got that treatment twice. Then his manager rang to say they had trouble getting through with the phone. Slow learners.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge

      Ditto that, my record is keeping a scammer on the line for 45 minutes and getting him to phone me back twice more.

      Depends on what mood I'm in and if I'm at a loose end for a while, but it is certainly fun baiting them. I take the view that while they are talking to me they aren't conning someone more vulnerable.

      I get far less of the "Microsoft Support" calls nowadays. The most common one is "We've renewed your Amazon prime". I'm surprised people still fall for that one, it is becoming old and repetitive now.

      As for calls about my "recent accident" I lead them down a long winded story culminating in the fact I was hit from behind by a flying elephant.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        "recent accident"

        I tell them that I have several and refuse to progress until they tell me which one they are talking about. This winds them up horribly!

        1. mtp

          Re: "recent accident"

          I normally start with

          "Accident - it was not a accident..."

          or

          "It was terrible, so many bodies, limbs, blood, ...."

          1. James Wilson

            Re: "recent accident"

            My favourite is "f***ing hell, that was quick, they haven't even cut me out yet"

        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: "recent accident"

          Here in the US we get a varient of that- "hello, we are calling about your extended warranty on your vehicle..."

          I try to keep them on the line by trying to get a quote for a 1998 Vespa, or if I'm actually trying to get work done that day, ask them "which one? I've got 200 on the lot right now"-pause for a second- "You've called a used car lot, remove me" before hanging up.

          Lately, I've been getting scam pitches for Hilton hotels, which is hilarious because while I don't work for that chain, I do work for a company that runs a hotel...

      2. ibmalone Silver badge
        Coat

        As for calls about my "recent accident" I lead them down a long winded story culminating in the fact I was hit from behind by a flying elephant.

        What a dumbo.

      3. Evil Scot
        Unhappy

        I only lasted 6 mins

        I feel inadequate.

        I wanted "Microsoft" to confirm if it was the Tower or the Laptop.

        What is the MAC address?

        Oh no sir it is not a Mac it is a Vindows PC.

        1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

          Re: I only lasted 6 mins

          I told them i had a raspberry pi, and it did not have windows. He kept saying "i do not understand raspberry pi". Eventually I said, it's a bit like an apple pie, but with raspberry not apples and no custard. At which point he lit up " ah, you have an apple computer!"

          Wish I had recorded the conversation - it was hysterical!

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    The problem with targeting Gen Z/millennials

    Is they don't have much money to steal. And the "your Windows PC is infected" scam might not work as readily on them, since more than a few I know use their phone for everything online and don't even OWN a Windows PC once they leave college!

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Pint

    Good update Laura

    Thanks, that pretty much confirms what I'm seeing although I hadn't thought about it in depth - El Reg has provided more confirmations, Thank You (icon).

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I wonder if the stats that men fall for the scams more than women, is down to it being more males who view 'adult content' online and this could cause them to worry they could have picked up a virus from some dodgy pron site?

    This factor might make them think its less embarrassing to get someone resolve it remotely rather than having to take it to a local computer repair shop and deal with someone face to face. Or their partner find out about their surfing habits.

  9. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    One to look out for

    COVID has pushed bridge players online. One site offers free individual games but charges BBO$ for competitions. BBO$ cost a similar amount to US$ when bought with UK£ directly through the BBO website. I set up a book mark on Mum's computer. Her friends try to get to BBO via a web search and often find a man in the middle who charges far more for BBO$.

    In tests, the trick IT professions fell for most often was the "Bank of the vvest".

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's a pity Microsoft are concentrating on phone scams. The most frequent emails on my old Hotmail account are threats purporting to come from Mcrosoft to close the account ( a few of the les competent are emailing a Hotmail address threatening to close a gmail account!) and it's very rare to see any of these trapped by Microsoft's spam filters. This is surprising given that they are 100% effective at other scams.

    The other group that get through a would-be leads generators touting "their" SEO or web development services. They get my "prospective supplier" questionnaire which gently leads them to the realisations that they look unconvincing and they've paid good money for a crap email list.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      I'd like to point out- it's not Microsoft running the scam, it's scammers abusing the fact that the bulk of machines out there are running windows.

      Microsoft corporate would very much like to shut these idiots down, but they are a slimy and slippery lot.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Joke

        Yep...

        "...but they are a slimy and slippery lot."

        So are some of the scammers.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    I am firmly in the boomer camp and the majority of my acquaintances are borderline paranoiacs, pretty much if we didn't call you about a problem you can fuck off!

    Maybe it's because of all the decades of double glazing and super duper house painting salesmen calling to rip us off with prices that are double what the goods are worth.

    One of the funniest was an ex nurse who is deaf, although not with her hearing aid, she had a call and told the guy she was 75 and going deaf then spent the next 10 minutes saying 'What! what! speak up I can't hear you!' The guy finally got the message and hung up.

    My best was a loan company that called me offering 'Low cost, short term loans'. I told her that was fantastic as I had just finished a five stretch in Strangeways and a loan would be very useful, she hung up immediately.

  12. Bongwater

    Sad

    My life is so pathetic I look forward to speaking with scammers. Makes me feel like somebody cares about me, then like everyone else they hang up on me without saying goodbye :(

    I even told the one guy I would give him my bank information if he sets me up with cute girls of the interwebs. I'd go surfing with them any day....

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Sad

      I had a strange one the other day. All I could make out in his opening pitch was the word "broadband" due to his fast speech and very heavy Indian accent. He then asked me how I was today, to which I replied "fine" and he hung up on me straight away, which seemed bizarre and a little extreme. I hadn't even started to bait him.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "repuitable organisations"

    Considering how difficult it is to speak to an actual live human being at most "reputable" organisations these days, it's surprising that anyone would think those same organisations would ever call you directly out of the blue :-)

  14. ParaHandy

    Wasting time.

    Mostly I just hang up. I still get the microsoft support calls fairly often. One time I let the guy talk me through the process until the hit enter to visit dodgy website. I then told him I wasn't going to hit enter because I knew it was a scam but I wanted to know how it worked so I could tell my customers about it. I thanked him kindly for his help. The stream of vitriol he emitted was quite gratifying. He eventually shouted "You think you're so mart!". I replied, "obviously smarter than you" and then hung up. I had to ignore the answering machine for a while after that, which was even more satisfying.

    More recently I've started asking them "Does your mum know what you do for a living?" That usually gets another gratifying tirade of abuse. I hang up chuckling.

  15. Martin-R

    Can’t be bothered with baiting them any more, just installed a call blocker. Once I’d remembered to white list the kids (they always call my mobile rather than the landline, except that once…) it’s been pretty seamless. And from the reduction in calls in the logs, I think some of the scammers may have blacklisted *us* :-)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    victims losing money

    "The number of victims losing money has increased – of those who engaged with scammers, seven per cent globally ended up out of pocket."

    Unfortunatly I see this happening all too often.

    I think it's high time the authorities did something about the Geek Squad.

  17. Ynox

    I started swearing at a caller once in Hindi. They said they'd report me to the police.

    Both my wife and I enjoy wasting the time of scammers. I tell the insurance ones that I had a load of beer and crashed into a tree (cue most of my colleagues laughing their asses off in the background back when I was in an office).

    Interestingly, the last one I had which was an IT one I told I didn't have a computer but just my phone. They were pretty keen to get me to install AnyDesk on it. I guess they're changing with the times to find more victims.

    And definitely watch Jim Browning's content. It's great. I've made my 73 year old Dad watch it with me and explained how these scams work.

  18. Sub 20 Pilot

    Obvious scams.

    I get annoyed at the usual 'age bias' - you are in your later years so you must be thick as fuck. Let us not forget who invented this technology and made it simple to use for the youth who, in the main, I suspect would not be able to build a PC, sort out problems using a CLI or set up a web page. Or indeed take out a car engine and rebuild it or a whole horde of other things I have done over the last 6 decades. Oh yes, they may be brilliant at installing a new app on their phone without looking at all the crap they are signing up for.

    Also I would say that anyone in the UK at least would understand that no company is there to help you but to make money off you in whchever way it can. Try contacting one of them to sort out a problem and see how quick it takes to arrive at a knowledgeable human who can help. Then consider that nobody in such a company would spend their valuable time speaking to you at their expense to make your life easier.

    That is such common sense that I fail to see why it is such a surprise to most people.

    The bleeding obvious:

    Anything that looks too good to be true will be.

    Anyone who says out of the blue that they can save you money and not make them money instead is a fking liar.

    The world is not altruistic - nobody will go out of their way at their expense to do you a favour.

    If everybody follwed these simple rules life would be much worse for the scammers and perhaps they would all fuck off and get an honest job.

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