More Millenials are falling for tech support scams
This generation may be tech-savvy, but not always wise to the wily ways of online scams.
Ten years ago, your typical tech support scam victim was someone like Harold.
Seventy years old, new to the Internet, and too trusting when a caller told him his computer had a virus.
Harold paid money for a fake fix that let the bad guy into his computer and his bank account.
Harold’s grandson, however, wouldn’t fall for that, right? Blake is 25, and grew up with the Internet, social media, and a phone in his pocket.
The research says one in five people surveyed responded to a tech support scam call, pop-up or contact by downloading software, visiting a scam website, giving the scammers access to their phone or computer, and/or by paying money.
Half of those potential victims were Millenials, age 18 to 34, the survey reported.
People over 55 fared better. Just 17% of the responders were baby boomers.
The scammers are shifting their methods, from calls to your home to pop-ups on your computer.
Archer News talked with Millenials to see why their grandparents—once the prime victims—may now be more tech-scam-savvy than their connected grandkids.
Microsoft survey shows more Millenials are falling for tech support scams than senior citizens.
Not so savvy
Millenials may be social-media-savvy, but not necessarily tech-savvy.
“When it comes to tech and how rapidly it advances, we get blown away still,” said Mike W., age 26. “We may act like we are tech-savvy, but all we are doing is social media tech stuff.”
“Not actual programming, hardware, or anything deeper than apps that can be installed in a blink of an eye,” he added.
Some Millenials may be consumers of the Internet, rather than creators who understand the inner workings of the web and its devices.
“I would say a good portion are more consumers,” said Chester P., age 25. “I think there are just more creators in their twenties than maybe other age groups. Knowing how Instagram works is different than how to code it.”
Ask the expert
Experts agree—knowing how to use social media does not always mean you know how to stay safe online.
“Millennials are usually thought of as very tech-savvy, but at the same time, the data shows that being hyper-connected doesn’t necessarily translate into being cybersecure,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.
Some younger people may feel a sense of urgency if they lose connection to their connected world.
“People live on technology and going too long without it could be devastating to someone,” said Chester.
That might make you more likely to pay up to get your connection back, no questions asked.
“When your car makes a noise you go in and just pay to fix it since you need it,” he said.
“With this group particularly, their typically high levels of connectivity and Internet activity perhaps heightens their concern of being cut off—hence their susceptibility to these kinds of scams that threaten to interrupt their daily digital lives,” Kaiser said to Archer News.
Younger generations live in a more digitally connected world than their parents and grandparents.
Need for speed
You don’t just want it fixed, you want it fixed quickly. And you don’t need to know the details of how or why.
“My first thought was the seemingly constant idea that if something is broken, go get it fixed,” said Chester.
“There seems to be a lack of understanding of what we use every day. So if someone notices their phone is slow, they go straight to Apple or wherever to get it fixed—rarely asking what happened to cause the problem, just how much,” he said.
Not wary enough
Millenials may not be suspicious enough to avoid these kinds of scams, said Tiffany A., age 34, who considers herself not a Millenial, but a member of the Oregon Trail Generation.
“Half of my generation grew up in the fearful 80s. Stranger danger,” Tiffany said. “Plus, my generation was new to the Internet. We didn’t always have it. We grew up with ‘never trust a stranger’— versus now, everyone dates or plays games online with others.”
Tiffany knows that Microsoft is not keeping tabs on her computer and phone for viruses. But she thinks younger people might consider the claim to be legitimate.
“I just know someone else can’t see my computer unless they hacked it. So how would they know it needs to be fixed?” Tiffany said.
“Maybe because they are used to being connected all the time with others on the computer that to them it doesn’t seem strange that someone else would be monitoring their computer—that someone would be remotely connected and would be able to fix their computer,” she explained.
Connection and convenience may be more customary for the younger generation.
“Getting informed—like an e-mail—about a problem needing only money to solve it would seem completely normal to most people,” Chester said.
Changing the game
The bad guys are using technology to step up their game.
“By leveraging pop-ups, unsolicited e-mail and scam websites as additional entry points for scams, fraudsters are reaching a broader number of people including younger than expected victims,” Microsoft said in a blog post.
A company calling itself Global Access Technical Support put out pop-up ads with loud alarms and recorded warnings about a “dire threat” to your computer, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Better Business Bureau gives this site & company, Global Access Technical Support, an F rating.
The ads hijacked your browser and directed you to an 800-number that appeared to be linked to a big-name company like Apple or Microsoft. If you called the number, a phone rep would try to convince you to let them take over your computer remotely to “fix” the problem, the FTC said in its complaint against the company.
“The complaint alleges that the telemarketers pressured consumers to spend anywhere from $200 to $400 for repair services that could take hours to complete and which were at best useless, and in some cases could actually harm consumers’ computers,” the FTC said.
Young people could be fooled by these kinds of tactics, Chester said.
“I think the fact that new scams look well done [means] it’s easy to assume reputability. I don’t think that most people are aware of how easy making websites look good now is, so they assume professionals did it,” he said.
One of the Federal Trade Commission charges against Global Access Technical Support.
Some of the 18 to 34 group have too much faith in technology, Millenials tell us.
“I think people my age fall for these types of attacks because we think most devices are secure and almost hack-proof,” said Mike. “Most devices do come with a 30-day trial of some sort of firewall protection, but it is a really crappy one at best and runs out in 30 days or less.”
“Plus, we never think scams like that happen to us as individuals and if they do, someone will be there to pay for our mistake, i.e. parents, guardians, etcetera,” he said. “We are a very entitled generation who thinks we know best.”
This kind of mistake, however, could do damage for a long time.
The bad guys will save the victim’s contact information for future scams, according to a Microsoft post on StaySafeOnine.org. They’ll get into your personal and bank account info while inside your machine, and leave malicious software behind.
“Previous reports indicate that fraudsters have turned off anti-virus software, downloaded unwanted and potentially harmful software and often regained access to the computer long after the ‘support session’ had ended,” Microsoft said in its post.
“We are seeing a variety of sophisticated online tactics and therefore reaching a larger population, including younger people,” Courtney Gregoire, a senior attorney with the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, said in a statement to Archer News. “This indicates that anyone can fall victim to these scams and we have to work even harder to build awareness around tech support scams.”
Chester sees a connection between the senior citizen victims and Millenial victims of tech support scams.
“I wonder if that’s an issue of trust,” he said. “We trust technology, and seniors trust people.”
Microsoft provides this advice if you get a contact from someone who says they’re with a legitimate software company:
—Do not purchase any software or services.
—Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.
—Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
—Take the person’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities. We encourage victims to report their experience with tech support scams directly to Microsoft and appropriate authorities. The data you provide can help Microsoft and law enforcement investigate these scams and hold fraudsters accountable.