Tech support scam losses double causing nearly $350 million in damages in 2021

Edward G. | April 26, 2022

Atlas VPN analysis reveals that tech support scam losses increased by 137% in 2021 and caused $347.66 million in damages to unwitting individuals globally. 

Tech support fraud involves a criminal pretending to provide customer, security, technical support, or assistance to deceive unwary victims. Criminals may act as support or service agents, offering to resolve difficulties such as a hacked email account or bank account, a computer virus, or a software license renewal.

The analysis is based on recently made public data by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The figures reflect inspection on a global scale, not only in the US. 

The chart below shows annual losses to tech support scams since 2017.

The year 2021 was record-breaking in terms of damages. Losses to tech support scams more than doubled, from $146.48 million in 2020 to $347.66 million in 2021. 

In other words, individuals lost close to 1$ million per day to these types of scams.

Also, the majority of victims (almost 60%) were 60 years old, and they accounted for 68% of the damages (nearly $238 million) in 2021. 

Yet, last year was not unusual in terms of growth in damages. Losses caused by tech support scams have been rising, on average, by 127% every year since 2017. 

The severity of the issue is clearly seen when contrasting losses in 2017 to 2021. Throughout 2017, fraudsters swindled over $14.81 million from victims globally. In 2021, it took criminals around 15 days to cause that much damage. 

In short, scammers posing as well-known tech organizations continue to offer to solve non-existent technology issues or renew bogus software or security subscriptions. 

The impersonation of customer service has taken many forms, including financial and banking organizations, utility providers, and virtual currency exchanges.

How to avoid tech support scams

There are a few sure ways to spot a support scam. 

First, one has to realize that tech companies never call to inform you about a technical issue that they have found on your device. Only scammers do so. 

The solution is simple: hang up if you receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to have found an issue with your computer or any other device.

Tricksters also use web browser or antivirus pop-ups to lure you into contacting them. Don’t be deceived if you see a well-known brand logo on the pop-up. It’s easy to duplicate. 

If you suspect that there might be an issue with your device, go straight to the official manufacturer's website, and skip the contact information provided in the pop-ups.

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Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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