Fake antivirus software and other antivirus scams
Antivirus software protects your devices from malware that might try to intercept your passwords, payment information, or other personal information that might be valuable to criminals.
It’s no wonder, then, that criminals want to trick you into installing fake antivirus or using trusted security brands in fake emails to trick you into handing over the information they seek.
Here we will tell you what you need to pay attention to in order to avoid trouble.
Since criminals know that many people are looking for free antivirus, they go to great lengths to create fake apps that run fake virus scans and then tell you that your device is infected with fake viruses.
Because the app is free, the warnings often require payment to remove the (nonexistent) virus and clean your device. And it’s a way for them to get your money directly or, worse, get your payment information and access all your money.
If the app doesn’t scare you with notifications that your phone or computer is infected, it can just run silently in the background and spy on you using the webcam and microphone and maybe even record everything what you type.
Not all fake apps are free. The other way to get scammed is to pay a subscription for a service that is not provided.
Why would you install a fake app in the first place? It might have managed to get into an official app store and you assume it is legit. It’s worth being skeptical of user reviews, whether in an app store or on a website: it’s easy to post fake five-star reviews. Even if you don’t read reviews, you may see a high rating from thousands of people and again assume it’s safe to download. Likewise, if you’re cautious and go a step further and check TrustPilot reviews for a business, don’t assume they’re all genuine.
Another way to end up with fake antivirus software is if you were tricked into downloading it from a social media post, or a scammer-owned website, or a legitimate website that they compromised. You may see a pop-up on the site saying your computer is infected with a virus and you need to click a link to download software that will fix it. It may appear to be from Norton, McAfee, Avast, AVG, or another well-known antivirus vendor.
You think you are getting real antivirus, but in fact you are downloading malware.
Antivirus email scams
One of the easiest ways for scammers to get your information is to send emails that appear to be from your antivirus provider and ask you to click on a link or call customer service to renew your subscription or resolve another issue with your protection.
Norton and McAfee are two brands that are often used because they are so well known, and the Norton antivirus scam email has been so prolific that the company has posted on its blog to warn customers about it.
If the email isn’t just a warning that your antivirus is about to expire, it may indicate that your “antivirus settings have expired” or that your computer is infected with a virus.
Usually they will convey a sense of urgency that you need to act quickly in order to resolve the issue.
And because legitimate security companies TO DO Sending emails when your subscription is nearing the end is a nifty way to log into a website or call customer service and give them your payment information to renew.
Unless of course the website isn’t Norton’s (or McAfee or someone else’s) and the person on the phone is the scammer, just waiting for you to give them the details they need to steal your money, your identity or both.
You may also receive phone calls and text messages telling you the same thing: it’s not just about emails.
How to spot antivirus scams
It’s almost ironic that you can end up installing fake antivirus because it’s the very software that’s supposed to protect you from dubious apps.
You may not easily spot a fake antivirus app, especially if you’ve chosen one from a company you’ve never heard of before. Don’t assume just because you found the app in a reputable app store (like Google Play) that it’s legit and doesn’t contain any malware.
We have seen so many dangerous apps sneaking around the net and only later being removed from the Play Store. That’s not very useful if the app is already on your device: it could be doing its dirty work of spying on you, potentially recording everything you say or type and sending it back to the crooks.
In some cases, we’ve seen “clean” apps arrive in an app store. When you first run them, they may ask you to “update” from the app itself. But what they actually do is download the malicious code that would have been picked up as part of the app store verification process and infect your device that way.
So that means you have to be extremely careful about what antivirus apps you install and where you get them from.
Here are some of the signs that you might have installed a fake antivirus:
- You see pop-up messages on your screen that your computer has a virus
- You are being asked to pay to remove a virus
- Pop-up messages include download links
- Your computer (or phone) is running slow and unresponsive
Our advice is to choose from our list of the best antivirus software and make sure that the website you are downloading it from is the real one and not a fake one.
Here are some of the genuine website names:
You can also check Wikipedia’s list of known malicious security software.
Spotting a fake antivirus email is a little easier. Emails are the starting point for a lot of attacks, but scammers usually make obvious spelling or grammar errors, or they may not use your name at all, which is another giveaway.
You should beware of scams with any email, especially if it urges you to act quickly and click on a link. It is better not to click on such links, but go directly to the antivirus provider’s website, log into your account and check for any messages.
These days, most antivirus subscriptions auto-renew, meaning you don’t have to do anything if you’re happy to keep paying. It’s rare that a security company doesn’t enable auto-renewal when you sign up: Norton and McAfee certainly do, as some features (such as their virus removal promise) only apply whether auto-renewal is enabled.
Also, no reputable anti-virus company will email you to tell you that your computer is infected with a virus. The software itself should notify you directly on any infected device.
The only type of email like this you might receive is if your personal information has been discovered online, such as an email address or password.
To stay safe, we recommend following these 10 tips to avoid all types of scams, including fake antivirus. And if you don’t have the money to spend on software right now, here is the best free antivirus that will help protect you.
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