Millennials are more likely to fall for tech support scams than baby boomers, Microsoft says.
The findings are revealed in a recent Microsoft study that saw it poll peeps in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and nine other countries. Redmond's not revealed the number of respondents.
Tech support scams take on various flavours but often begin with fake blue screen of death advertisement pages warning of malware infections.
Those who click through or call the advertised phone numbers are often asked for remote access to their machines by operators pretending to come from tech and security companies.
Scammers often run benign commands within command prompts and claim the resulting information is evidence of malware infection which can be resolved by purchasing fake security software. That software is often malware and the "fix"actually connects a user to a botnet.
Redmond's digital crimes unit senior attorney Courtney Gregoire says half of respondents between the age of 18 and 34 had followed tech support scammer instructions, handing over remote access to their machines or downloading software after encountering a scam page.
Only 17 per cent of respondents 55 years and older took the bait. Meanwhile, one in three (34 per cent) of folks aged between 36 and 54 fell for scams.
"These results may – at first glance – appear surprising, challenging our preconceived notions that fraudsters target senior citizens," report author Gregoire says.
"By leveraging pop-ups, unsolicited email and scam websites as additional entry points for scams, fraudsters are reaching a broader number of people including younger than expected victims.
"Regardless of the audience or the entry method, the goal of the fraudster remains the same – use fear and deception to persuade a customer to call for support, then seek remote access to the customer’s device and provide a fraudulent sales pitch."
Gregoire says users from India were the most likely to fall for the scams where, along with the United States, one in five who encountered a scam end up losing money.
Half of those who call scam numbers or download software will lose cash.
One in five respondents say they had handed over remote access to scammers or downloaded software after encountering a scam page with one in 10 losing money.
Tech support scam pages were common on now defunct but previously-popular piracy torrent site Kick Ass Torrents. The ads would often throw blue screen of death pages that trigger mobiles to vibrate, requesting that users call a displayed phone number.
The proliferation of tech support scams on torrent sites could suggest millennials are more likely to encounter the ruses, though this is not mentioned in the report.
Your correspondent once called one tech support phone number displayed on Kick Ass Torrents offering money for the identity and location of the fraud operation, but my kind offer was declined.
Security boffin Ivan Kwiatkowski was more ambitious. In August he permitted a tech support scammer to access his virtual machine and tricked the operator into opening a file that infected their machine with the Locky ransomware. ®