Microsoft received 153,000 reports in 2017 from customers who either encountered or fell victim to tech support scams, a 24 per cent jump on the previous year.
Some 15 per cent of complainants lost money from the scam. Of these, the average loss was $200 to $400, although one Dutch customer's bank account was drained of €89,000.
The cold callers often claim to be from Microsoft, hence the huge number of complaints to Microsoft's actual customer care service. The company warned that the problem is "much bigger" given that tech support scams target users of other devices, platforms and software.
Phishing websites and emails are used by these scammers, but the most common way of engaging with their prey is with a simple phone call. The scammer may ring up claiming to be from Microsoft, informing their victim that there is a technical issue with their computer, before walking them through the ‘errors' (which they themselves have installed remotely) and scaring them into an immediate remedy, for which they pay a handsome fee.
Complaints came from 183 countries, indicating that these phishing scams were a global problem.
"It can sometimes be easier to convince users to willingly share their passwords, account info, or to install hazardous apps onto their device than to develop malware and steal info unnoticed," explained Microsoft.
The tech giant has implemented Windows 10 S mode, a configuration which only allows apps from the Microsoft Store to run on a device. However, despite the company's attempts to ensure its users' cybersecurity, attacks and malware still get through. It said customer education is "key" to battling the cyber scammers, but that a concerted effort is required across the industry. "Beyond customer education, the scale and complexity of tech support scams require cooperation and broad partnerships across the industry," Microsoft said.
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