Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) warned late last week that tech support scams are on the rise, with the number increasing 24% in 2017 compared to a year earlier.
In a blog post, Erik Wahlstrom, Windows Defender Research Project Manager at the Redmond, Washington-based software giant revealed that last year, its Microsoft Customer Supplier Services received 153,000 reports from customers who encountered or fell victim to tech support scams. The reports were worldwide, with Microsoft saying customers from 183 countries have complained about the scams.
15% of Customers Reporting Scams Lost Money, According to Microsoft
According to Microsoft, these tech support scams come in many flavors but the aim is the same: to get cash from unsuspecting victims. The scammers will use websites that depict fake antivirus warnings, malware that shows fake error messages, phony emails from hackers pretending to be support staff from real companies and cold calls from these so-called support workers. (See more: Microsoft Stock Reaches Resistance After CIO Survey.)
The software company said that about 15% of the customers that reported the scams have lost money, on average between $200 and $400. There was one case in December of 2017 in which a Dutch computer user lost €89,000 (about $109,000) during a tech support scam. “As with many social engineering attacks, it’s tricky to put an absolute number to the problem. The figures above represent reports to Microsoft. The problem is so much bigger, given that tech support scams target customers of various other devices, platforms, or software,” Wahlstrom said in the blog post.
It’s not just a Microsoft problem either. According to the company, the tech support scam problem is “far-reaching” and impacts different platforms, devices, software, and services. For instance, the software giant said tech support scams target Windows, macOS, iOS and Android operating systems, are accessible on the web via tech support scam websites and can impact anyone given fake malware detection programs that mimic real antivirus ones. It doesn’t help that many of these malicious campaigns are customized, which means the message and technique are tailored to the geography, operating system, browser or internet service provider. (See more: Microsoft Warms Up to Former Rival Linux.)
To combat the growing problem Microsoft said it has teamed up with web hosting companies that take down verified tech support scam websites, telecom networks that block tech support scam phone numbers and browser developers that can thwart the scammers’ latest and greatest tactics. It’s also enlisting the help of antivirus software makers, financial networks, and law enforcement agencies. “We seek to continue expanding and enriching these partnerships. While we continue to help protect customers through a hardened platform and increasingly better security solutions, we believe it’s high time for the industry to come together and put an end to the tech support scam problem,” said Wahlstrom