New Zealand tops list of most-scammed countries: Microsoft study
New Zealand, 16 October 2018 – New Zealanders are the most likely people in the world to have experienced a tech support
scam, according to a new study from Microsoft.
When it comes to “helpdesk” phone calls and fake pop-ups that resemble software notifications, New Zealand leads the
world. However, the most frequent victims are not who you might think. Young and male New Zealanders are especially
susceptible to losing money from tech support scams, thanks to a tendency towards risky behaviour and overconfidence in
their technical abilities.
Among the 16 nationalities surveyed for the 2018 Global Tech Support Scam Research conducted by TRG, New Zealanders
reported the highest levels of exposure to tech scams, with more than three-quarters of us experiencing at least one.
Globally, the average is 62 per cent. Kiwis are also far more likely than other nationalities to be exposed to fake
pop-up ads and windows posing as notifications from their software provider, as well as scams that redirect unsuspecting
victims to websites that mimic real tech company sites in order to trick them into giving away passwords and important
Around a fifth (21 per cent) of New Zealanders who had encountered tech support scams were fooled into continuing with
an interaction, and just six per cent of those suffered direct financial losses. However, those figures don’t reveal the
full story. The research shows that more than a third of those who engaged with a scam ended up incurring costs as a
result of spending time or money to repair their systems and ensure they weren’t compromised.
It may come as a surprise that Millennials and males are the most likely to have experienced losses from scams, and that
they are also significantly more likely to trust that companies won’t try to sell them unnecessary support services.
However, Microsoft New Zealand’s National Technology Officer, Russell Craig, says it’s understandable, if concerning.
“The common stereotype of scam victims is that they are elderly and less experienced with computers and software, but
this is a case of a little knowledge leading to overconfidence,” he says.
“Because computer use is skewed towards younger generations and males, who are also more likely to engage in riskier
behaviours such as visiting torrent download sites, they are more likely to encounter scams. Greater exposure plus
greater confidence using computers makes under 40s and men more susceptible to clever scammers.”
The proportion of Kiwis tricked is surprising given the high level of scepticism among those surveyed. 90 per cent of
all Kiwis claim to doubt a reputable company would initiate unsolicited contact, seven per cent higher than the global
On the other hand, New Zealand’s incidence of economic loss is exactly on par with the rest of the countries surveyed.
Losses from scams have declined three per cent worldwide since the previous survey in 2016, which did not include New
Zealand, dropping to six per cent overall. India is still the country with the most reported losses, with 14 per cent of
all those who engaged with tech support scams losing money to the scammers – but this is against a whopping 22 per cent
who lost out in 2016. The US has also drastically improved, from 21 per cent impacted to just six per cent within two
By contrast, previous star performers Denmark and the UK have experienced increased loss rates. Seven per cent of Danes
engaging with tech support scams lost money (up from four per cent in 2016) and the UK’s results are now level with New
Zealand’s, a marked rise from the two per cent of respondents who’d suffered financial impacts in the previous survey.
Globally, respondents believe that responsibility for addressing tech support scams rests mostly with consumer
protection agencies, followed by law enforcement agencies and regulators.
“Our core focus at Netsafe is educating New Zealanders on how to stay safe online, and that includes how to protect
yourself against scams,” says Martin Cocker, Netsafe chief executive. “We work closely with the Government and other
agencies to help Kiwis avoid harm from unscrupulous activities and advise them of the latest scams, as we all have a
role to play in keeping the web safe.”
Given that Windows is the operating system of choice for most of the world, it’s not surprising that Microsoft is by far
the tech company most associated with scams. A quarter of all fake pop-ups, nearly a third (31 per cent) of all
redirects to counterfeit sites and 21 per cent of all scam emails purport to come from Microsoft support teams.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to take the lead on combating tech scams and we’re always working to improve
security and detection of cyber threats so these never reach your computer,” Craig says.
“However, these results reinforce the need for all of us to be extra cautious when it comes to giving information to
strangers. If in doubt, hover over a link before clicking to check the URL and remember that Microsoft tech support
teams will never contact customers directly.”
Key Global Tech Support Scam Research takeaways:
• New Zealand is the country with the highest level of exposure to tech support scams, followed by Mexico, South
Africa, Australia and India. Japan is the least exposed to these scams
• 21% of Kiwis surveyed have been tricked into continuing with an interaction
• 6% of those who continued have lost money directly to the scammers. Overall 38% have incurred costs due to time
and money spent investigating and addressing security concerns
• Millennials, Generation Z (those born after 1995) and males have the highest exposure to tech support scams,
although Boomers show the highest levels of unsolicited calls
• Millennials are the most likely age group to lose money, with 64% of Kiwi Millennials engaging with tech support
scams losing money, compared with just 11% of Generation Xers
• Men are significantly more likely to experience financial losses from tech support scams than women – 63% of
Kiwi men vs. 35% of Kiwi women
to view the full report.