McAfee is one of the most trusted and widely-used cybersecurity software suite developers. It provides protection solutions to both personal device consumers and enterprise businesses worldwide against sophisticated malware, phishing, and hacking threats.
The strength of the McAfee brand has also made it a prime target for exploitation by scammers aiming to dupe innocent users through an array of fraudulent schemes.
McAfee scams are fraudulent tactics and social engineering schemes that impersonate the popular anti-virus and cybersecurity software company – McAfee.
Beware of fake security warnings displayed as pop-ups or browser redirects that urge users to call illegitimate “McAfee support” numbers to fix supposed device infections or subscription issues.
Steer clear from fake McAfee websites distributing corrupted software files, viruses, ransomware and other malware disguised as McAfee Antivirus tools instead of actual McAfee protection products.
1) Fake Security Warnings
One of the most common McAfee scams involves fake security warnings delivered via pop-ups, emails, or phone calls. The scam pretends to be an alert from McAfee warning that malware, viruses, or other security threats have been detected on your device.
The pop-ups or calls then urge users to call a provided “McAfee support number” or click on a link to resolve the issue immediately to prevent further damage.
However, the number routes to scammers – not genuine McAfee support. The scammers trick worried users into paying unnecessary fees to “remove” non-existent threats.
Sometimes they even gain remote access to devices enabling them to steal personal data. These fake alerts play on fears of compromised security to dupe innocent users.
Legitimate McAfee warnings would never demand immediate payment over the phone or require granting remote access to your device.
2) Refund Scams
Another tactic is the McAfee refund scam typically conducted over the phone. Scammers call claiming they need to issue refunds for an unused or expired McAfee subscription. They will ask for remote access to the victim’s computer under the guise of processing the refund.
Unfortunately, this simply allows them to secretly install malware and access personal data files on the device. They may even trick users into transferring sums of money, claiming there is a refund in progress when in reality they are stealing funds.
Granting any stranger remote access to your device makes you extremely vulnerable to data and identity theft at their hands.
McAfee does not call users proactively regarding subscription refunds – users have to directly contact McAfee Support regarding refunds.
3) Tech Support Scams
McAfee tech support scams typically start with a phone call from fraudsters claiming to be McAfee technicians.
They will claim that malware or viruses have been detected on your computer or that there is some other technical issue like an expired subscription.
The scammers pose as helpful support staff offering to troubleshoot the issue over the phone. They will ask users to grant remote access to their device and then walk them through installing legitimate remote access programs like TeamViewer.
Unfortunately, this allows the scammers to take control of the victim’s computer or device and access personal files and data. They can quietly install malware and spyware without the user realizing it.
In more elaborate schemes, they may even trick users into purchasing unnecessary services or software programs to “resolve” the fake issues. By posing as trusted McAfee support teams, they more easily dupe unsuspecting users.
4) Fake McAfee Websites
A common online scam involves fake McAfee websites that install malware or viruses disguised as McAfee software tools.
For example, scammers will create authentic looking sites offering users free trials of McAfee Antivirus or other security products.
But instead of actual software, the download links will contain harmful executables that infect devices with viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, and other malware.
Such malware can secretly access personal data, monitor online activity, corrupt files, damage systems, and enable further criminal activity.
Furthermore, some fake sites will simply try to extract personal information with promises of free McAfee software trials. By handing over email addresses and other contact info, users enable scammers to conduct phishing campaigns or steal identities.
Genuine McAfee sites always require payment before software downloads to protect users.
5) Phishing Emails
Scammers also rely heavily on phishing emails to steal personal information under the McAfee brand. These emails pretend to come from McAfee or McAfee-associated domains, often warning users of some urgent issue detected on their device.
They will include alarming subject lines like “Your McAfee subscription has expired!” or “Unauthorized activity detected on your device.” The body of the email urges users to click on a link to resolve the issue immediately and avoid further harm.
However, the links lead to fake login portals that steal usernames, passwords, credit card details, and other personal info when entered.
By panic-inducing urgent calls-to-action, scammers are able to trick even savvy internet users into handing over critical account details and identity data before realizing it’s a scam site.
With access to email accounts and passwords, scammers can then access even more sensitive personal documents and data from both consumers and even businesses.
6) Fake Renewal Notices
One of the simplest McAfee scams involves sending fake software renewal notices to get credit card or other financial information. Victims receive emails stating that an existing McAfee software subscription is about to or already has expired.
The emails implore victims to click through to renew the software and enter updated payment information – even if the user never actually had an active McAfee subscription in the first place.
By exploiting the urgency of an expiring product, scammers get access to critical financial data like credit card numbers which they leverage for fraudulent purchases and identity theft schemes.
And for those who previously had a McAfee subscription, the fake emails can confuse them into paying renewal fees unnecessarily by making them doubt whether the charges are valid or not.
McAfee would never demand immediate blind payment by email without confirming account details first. But the scammers prey on sowing doubts to pocket fraudulent payments.
7) Identity Theft
Finally, an emerging scam tactic involves using fake McAfee calls to facilitate identity theft schemes.
Typically, victims receive calls pretending to be McAfee representatives “following up on expired subscriptions.” The scammers pose as McAfee support staff claiming they need to verify account details including name, date of birth, address, etc.
Before realizing it, victims end up handing over critical personally identifiable information to strangers over the phone.
Armed with names, birthdates, social security numbers, and addresses, the criminals then engage in full-scale identity theft – opening fraudulent credit cards, draining bank accounts, making large unauthorized purchases under the victim’s name, and critically damaging their credit score and financial standing.
By posing as a trusted household software brand, scammers more easily convince unsuspecting users to surrender personal data without realizing the implications until it is too late.
What To Do If You Have Been Scammed
1) Report the Incident
First, document the details of the scam incident, including how you were targeted, what information was compromised, and any financial losses incurred. Then report the scam immediately to your local authorities to have the incident on record officially in case more issues emerge in the future.
Also, be sure to contact both your bank and credit card companies to report what data may have been stolen if you surrendered card details or other financial information. They can start monitoring for suspicious activity and may issue you with new card numbers to secure your accounts.
2) Disconnect from the Internet
If you believe your computer may be compromised, disconnect from the internet to prevent further unauthorized access and potential data theft. Unplug your network cable or disable Wi-Fi to ensure that the malicious actors cannot communicate with your device.
3) Check Your Accounts
Carefully review statements on all your financial accounts like bank accounts, credit cards, retirement funds, and online payment accounts to identify any unauthorized or fraudulent activity that may indicate identity theft or stolen funds.
Report any suspicious transactions, purchases, withdrawals or transfers to your financial institutions right away.
You may also want to temporarily freeze financial accounts that were compromised by the scammers to prevent incurring additional damages while investigations proceed with your bank.
Carefully monitoring will also allow you to catch issues early before they cascade.
4) Scan Your Devices
If the scammers tricked you into downloading fake McAfee software or gained remote access to your computer, phone, or tablet, then scan your devices to check for new malware infections.
Use legitimate and fully updated security software to scan all devices that the scammers made contact with to uncover viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, bots, or other threats they may have secretly installed without your knowledge to monitor your activity or steal more data.
As cybercriminals grow increasingly advanced and brazen with social engineering tactics, even prominent brands like McAfee itself get impersonated to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
However, by equipping yourself with understanding of common McAfee-themed scam techniques and learning how to spot the subtle warning signs in fraudulent messages, you can avoid getting tricked.