Microsoft today released the Singapore findings of its 2021 Global Tech Support Scam Research report that surveys people across 16 countries to assess the current environment for tech support scams and the impact on consumers. The survey found that 34% of Singaporeans received an unsolicited call in the past 12 months, almost double from a 2018 survey. This jump correlates with an increase in overall scam encounters in Singapore between 2018 to 2021 (increase to 62%) and is slightly above the global average of 59%.
Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints globally from people who have been the victim of a tech support scam; this is down from 13,000 reports in an average month in prior years. To better understand how the problem with tech support scams is evolving globally and to enhance efforts to educate consumers on how to stay safe online, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for this global survey in 16 countries, including four APAC markets – Australia, India, Japan and Singapore. This is a follow-up to similar surveys that Microsoft fielded in 2018 and 2016.
Mary Jo Schrade, Assistant General Counsel, Regional Lead, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Asia, said: “Tech support scams are perpetrated globally and target people of all ages. More than half of consumers in Singapore report having been targeted by scammers, indicating a continued need to monitor and address how these scams are evolving. 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. We will continue to investigate these scams and report the scammers to law enforcement. We also hope these survey findings will help to better educate people so they can avoid becoming victims of these scams.”
Singaporeans remain vigilant despite increase in scam encounters
Although there was a reported increase in scam encounters in Singapore between 2018 to 2021 (from 58% to 62%), Singaporeans remained vigilant and those who reported continuing to interact with a scammer in 2021 (14%) remained on par with 2018 (15%), as did the number of people reporting having lost money (5% in 2021; 4% in 2018). Of those surveyed in 2021, 91% thought that it was very or somewhat unlikely a company would contact them via an unsolicited call, pop‑up, text message, ad or email; this is a seven-point increase from 2018 (84%).
Demographics and scam rates are closely correlated
In Singapore, 42% of Gen Xers (aged 38 – 53) surveyed were most likely to continue with a scam, followed by one in three (37%) Millennials (aged 24 – 37). Males (58%) in Singapore were also most likely to report having continued with such scams in 2021 as compared with females surveyed (42%).
Gen Zers (aged 18 – 23) in Singapore are the most exposed to computer-related scam interactions – 48% of those surveyed experienced a pop-up ad, while 45% of them experienced a website redirect in the past 12 months. This is possibly due to their engagement in riskier online activities, such as using bit torrent sites (7%).
Despite this increased exposure, Gen Zers were one of the least likely age groups to continue interacting with scammers (13%). This could be due to high confidence in their computer literacy skills, with almost 3 in 4 of those surveyed (73%) indicating their computer skills as expert or advanced.
Vulnerability to cyber risks, such as malware, remain even after a scam
62% of those who continued with a computer-related scam spent time checking or repairing their computers following the scam. This is six-points lower than what Singaporeans reported in 2018 (68%), and is 14-points lower than the global average of 76% in 2021.
It is crucial to carry out checks, as some scammers are known to install malware on computers, allowing them to maintain remote access to people’s computers long after the victims believed the interaction was terminated.
What Microsoft is doing to combat scams
The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) is working to help combat tech support scams by partnering with law enforcement, strengthening technology, and educating consumers. Microsoft has been fighting against tech support scams since 2014 and has supported law enforcement officials to take legal action against scammers across the years in Asia, the U.S., and Europe.
The DCU works to combat tech support scams by (1) investigating tech support fraud networks and referring cases to law enforcement as appropriate, (2) strengthening Microsoft’s products and services to better protect consumers from various fraudulent tactics, and (3) educating consumers about this type of fraud by providing guidance and resources on how to identify, avoid, and report them.
Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Singapore, shared: “Tech support scams is an industry-wide challenge. To tackle this, as many people as possible need to be educated about these scams and how these scammers operate. Consumers in Singapore can protect themselves by learning about how these scammers target people, being suspicious of any unsolicited contact from purported tech company employees, and avoiding letting people they do not know to remotely access their computers.”
Microsoft recommends keeping in mind the following tips should consumers receive a notification or call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or any other reputable company:
- Be suspicious of pop-up messages on your computer, and do not call the number or click on the link in any pop-ups received.
- Download software only from official company websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the company’s knowledge to bundle support scam malware and other threats.
- If you think you may have been the victim of a Tech Support Scam, report your experience at www.microsoft.com/reportascam and also file reports with law enforcement authorities, such as your local consumer protection authority.