The vast majority (79 percent) of people deceived by phone scammers suffered some sort of financial loss.
Microsoft released findings
of a survey concerning an emerging form of Internet scam that targets
English-speaking markets and costs victims, on average, $875. In this type of scam,
criminals pose as computer security engineers and call people to tell them they
are at risk of a computer security threat.
The scammers say they are providing
free security checks and claim to represent legitimate
companies and use telephone directories to refer to their victims by name. Once
they have tricked their victims into believing they have a problem and that
they can help, the scammers are believed to run through a range of deception
techniques designed to steal money.
this emerging form of Internet fraud, Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users
in the U.K., Ireland, the U.S. and Canada. The survey, commissioned by
Microsoft Trustworthy Computing and conducted by Dynamic Markets, showed that
across all four countries, 15 percent of the respondents had received a call
from scammers. In Ireland, 26 percent had received a call.
Of those who received a
call, 22 percent, or 3 percent of the total survey sample, followed the
scammers' instructions, which ranged from permitting remote access to their
computer and downloading software code provided by the criminals to revealing
credit card information and making a purchase.
Additionally, 79 percent of
those deceived in this way suffered a 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 the four countries
surveyed, the average amount of money stolen was $875, with the range from $82
in Ireland up to $1,560 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 cyber-criminals
increasingly turn to tactics of deception to trick people in order to steal
from them," said Richard Saunders, director of international public and
analyst relations at Microsoft. "Criminals have proved once again that
their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their ruthless pursuit of our
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 matter of time before the scammers acquire skills in
other languages and look to expand their operations. "Fake lottery scams
and other forms of Internet scams have followed this pattern," he said.
Because phone scammers rely
on deception, Saunders said he believes the most effective protection lies in
consumer education to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.
Microsoft recommended being suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a
security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company and
warned never to provide personal information, such as credit card or bank
details, to an unsolicited caller.
The company also recommended
not going to a Website, typing anything into a computer, installing software or
following any other instructions from someone who calls out of the blue.
Instead, those contacted should take the caller's information down and pass it
to the authorities, use up-to-date versions of Windows and application software,
make sure security updates are installed regularly, use a strong password and
change it regularly, and make sure the firewall is turned on and that antivirus
software is installed and up-to-date.