Even with technology, it seems that age may bring wisdom after all. A recent study suggests that old folks aren't falling for tech support scams all that often — but their grandchildren are. Millennials, far from the inherently tech-savvy caricatures as portrayed by the media, are actually somewhat gullible when it comes to calls, e-mails or popup ads claiming to offer tech support, but delivering only scams.
The information comes from a joint study between Ipsos Public Affairs, which is a technological survey-based research group, and Microsoft. Ipsos surveyed 1,000 adults from 12 countries about their experiences with tech-support scams, especially those claiming to be representing Microsoft.
The results were actually somewhat encouraging. On a global scale, only 20 percent of respondents took the scams seriously, and only nine percent lost money to them. The results were a bit worse in the United States, though: 33 percent fell for scams, and 21 percent parted with their hard-earned cash.
What’s more interesting is that the age breakdown is not exactly what you might expect. Younger users were actually much more likely to fall for scams than their older counterparts. Twenty-seven percent of the 18-24 demographic fell for a scam; 13 percent of them lost money. A staggering 32 percent (nearly one-third) of the 25-34 group fell for a scam; 18 percent of them lost money.
At the 66+ demographic — where you might expect to find the largest amount of fraud, given that elderly folks often fall for phone scams — there wasn’t much deception. While seniors encountered phone, e-mail and popup scams at roughly the same rates as their younger counterparts, they heard out scammers only 11 percent of the time, and gave into them only 3 percent of the time.
While the survey doesn't hazard a guess as to why older folks are less prone to scams, there's one very simple explanation: They're just not exposed to as many scams as their younger counterparts. The survey, after all, did not take into account how often its respondents came across scams, only whether they did or not.
A young active worker who's on the computer and phone constantly will be bombarded with scams on a daily basis. After hundreds upon hundreds of phishing e-mails about their myriad online accounts, it makes sense that they'd fall for one eventually.
The good news, at least, is that relatively few people fall for online scams, and even fewer fork over any money to them. In the meantime, keep an antivirus program active on your computer, ignore links embedded in strange emails and remember that Microsoft will never call you first.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.