Surprise! Young, tech-savvy men most likely to fall for tech-support scams, says Microsoft

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It's overconfident young men, not frightened old ladies, who are most likely to fall for tech-support scams, a survey conducted by Microsoft and YouGov reveals.

The online survey interviewed more than 16,000 people in 16 countries worldwide in May 2021 and found that 16% of millennial men, defined as those respondents aged 24-37, said they had lost money to scammers in the year and some months since January 2020. Fully 27% said they were happy to engage with the scammers.

On the other end, only 1% of Boomer women (aged 54 and older) said they had lost money, and at only 8% said they engaged the scammers at all.

The scams can come via unsolicited telephone calls, unsolicited emails or other messages or pop-up windows in web browsers. Most of them involve a phony "tech support agent" who tells you that there's something wrong with your computer or its software and that you have to purchase or renew services immediately.

Regardless of age or gender, the survey report said people who called themselves computer "experts" were much more likely to lose money to tech-support scammers than were people who considered themselves to be "advanced" or "intermediate" computer users. 

"It is Gen Z, Millennials and males who were hardest hit and most likely to have lost money, likely due to younger generations being more 'online' and engaging in more risky activities," said the report, adding that "those who lost money... displayed (over) confidence in their computer literacy." 

Such "risky activities" are commonplace among internet users under 30: getting software from torrent sites; downloading pirated movies, music or TV shows; and providing an email address in order to receive free content.

The U.S. is not the biggest target

Another interesting tidbit: Westerners may blame India for tech-support scams, as many fake tech-support agents have strong subcontinental accents, but the Microsoft/YouGov survey finds that Indians are by far the most frequent victims of such scams.

Fully 31% of Indians who responded to the survey reported losing money to tech-support scammers. The next-highest rate of victims was in the U.S., where 10% reported losing money, followed closely by Australia and Mexico.

Indians were also the most trusting overall: Forty-eight percent reported engaging with scammers, followed by Brazil at 29% and Mexico at 21%. 

Only 18% of Americans engaged with the scammers; 49% either hung up the phone or ignored the pop-up window or email message trying to lure them into a scam.

The smartest computer users may be those in the U.K., where nearly as many people reported encountering tech-support scams as in the U.S. (60% compared to 67%), but only 8% of U.K. residents said they engaged with the scammers and only 1% lost money.

Japan seems to have the lowest rate tech-support scams: Only 28% of respondent said they'd encountered one in the past 16 months. At the other extreme, 69% of Brazilians said they'd encountered a tech-support scam. 

The survey interviewed 16,254 internet users 18 and over from May 6 to May 17, 2021, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. The full report can be read here.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.