Microsoft released findings of a survey into an emerging
form of Internet scam that targets English-language markets and costs victims
on average $875 (U.S.).
The scam works by criminals posing as computer security
engineers and calling people at home to tell them they are at risk of a
computer security threat. The scammers tell their victims they are providing
free security checks and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate
companies and using telephone directories to refer to their victims by name.
Once they have tricked their victims into believing they
have a problem and that the caller can help, the scammers are believed to run
through a range of deception techniques designed to steal money.
To establish the extent of this emerging form of Internet
fraud, Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and
Canada. The survey showed that across all four countries, 15 percent of people
had received a call from scammers. In Ireland this rose to 26 percent,
according to a Microsoft press release.
Of those who received a call, 22 percent, or 3 percent of
the total survey sample, were deceived into following the scammers’
instructions, which ranged from permitting remote access to their computer and
downloading software code provided by the criminals to providing credit card
information and making a purchase.
The vast majority (79 percent) of people deceived in this
way suffered some sort of financial loss. Seventeen percent said they had money
taken from their accounts, 19 percent reported compromised passwords and 17
percent were victims of identity fraud. More than half (53 percent) said they
suffered subsequent computer problems.
Across all four countries surveyed, the average amount of
money stolen was $875 (U.S.), ranging from $82 (U.S.) in Ireland up to $1,560
(U.S.) in Canada. The average cost of repairing damage caused to computers by
the scammers was $1,730 rising to $4,800 in the U.S.
“The security of software is improving all the time,
but at the same time we are seeing cybercriminals increasingly turn to tactics
of deception to trick people in order to steal from them. Criminals have proved
once again that their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their
ruthless pursuit of our money,” said Richard Saunders, director, International
Public and Analyst Relations, Microsoft.
While Microsoft’s research shows the huge scale of the
phone scam issue, at this stage it is believed to only affect countries where
the main language is English. However, according to Saunders, it’s only a question
of time before the scammers acquire skills in other languages and look to
expand their operation. “Fake lottery scams and other forms of Internet
scams have followed this pattern,” Saunders added.
Because phone scammers rely on deceiving, Microsoft
believes the most effective protection lies in consumer education to prevent
people from becoming victims in the first place.
By Telecomlead.com Team