JOHANNESBURG - Tech-support scams affected 71 percent of South African consumers in 2018, down seven points from figures in 2016, according to Microsoft’s latest global research into the phenomenon.

The research examined the incidence and consequences of tech support scams worldwide. The web-based survey of 16048 adult internet users in 16 countries (1000 per country) sampled an equal number of male and female users aged 18 and older, proportional to the internet user population in each country.

“A tech support scam is a phone call, email or online interaction which appears to be from a reputable company, claiming that your computer is infected with a virus,” said Kethan Parbhoo, the chief operations and marketing officer at Microsoft South Africa. “These scams cause consumers to lose money and time and suffer greater life stress. Gen Z, millennials and males had the highest exposure to tech support scams, both globally and in South Africa, in 2018. They were more likely to lose money and engage in riskier online behaviour.”

While the same proportion of South African consumers were fooled by scammers in 2018 as in 2016, fewer reported losing money after they continued, with the percentage who continued and lost money falling from 8percent to 4 percent.

While monetary loss is the most common result of tech support scams they can cause more than just financial damage. According to the research, among those who experienced a scam, 52 percent ended up spending time checking and repairing their PC and more than three in four consumers who continued with a scam reported suffering from moderate to severe stress due to the fraudulent interaction.