December 2023
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Computer security company tricks to cheat their customers?

(Tuesday blog)

I’m really sick today. So no blog. But I thought I could use today’s forum to warn readers of the tricks computer security companies use to extract the maximum amount of money from their customers

Last year I bought a year’s subscription to Norton Symantec anti-virus programme for about £15. The renewal price after one year was £69.99 for the second year. So I decided to dump my Norton and buy a year’s subscription through from McAfee for £14.99.
Here are just two of the issues I encountered:
1. Unable to uninstall Norton
Part of the installation procedure for McAfee (or any similar security software) is that it identifies any competing security software on your computer and gives you the option of having the competing software uninstalled. I used this, but after more than two hours of trying, the McAfee couldn’t uninstall the Norton.
So I stopped the McAfee installation and decided to uninstall the Norton myself using my laptop’s “uninstall/change” function. But Norton had put some kind of blocking mechanism in place which prevented me uninstalling the Norton security software.
Searching on Google, I found a Norton programme which could uninstall the Norton from my laptop and downloaded this. But this only gave two options – “uninstall Norton and replace with newer version” and “advanced options”. There was no clean “uninstall Norton” option. It was only once you went into “advanced options” that you found a way of uninstalling the Norton.
I suspect many computer users wouldn’t have found this out and would have felt obliged to buy a second year from Norton just to ensure their devices were protected from viruses and hackers.
Incidentally, on the very last day of my Norton subscription, Norton dropped the renewal price from £69.99 to £29.99.
2. Blackmailing customers into “auto-renewal”
I bought the McAfee anti-virus programme from and was sent my ‘key’ to open and download the McAfee software. But this download was blocked by McAfee until I provided McAfee with my credit card details and agreed to “auto-renewal” of my McAfee subscription at whatever price McAfee wanted to charge after the first year had elapsed. Unless I provided my credit card details and agreed to “auto-renewal“, McAfee blocked my access to the security software I had already paid for. This is little short of blackmail.
McAfee do inform purchasers that they can change the settings of their McAfee account to cancel the “auto-renewal” at a later date. I downloaded the McAfee software and then cancelled my “auto-renewal”. However, I had paid McAfee for security software for several devices and every time I downloaded the software onto another device, McAfee automatically switched on the “auto-renewal” again.
I suspect there are many customers who, like me, cancelled the “auto-renewal”. But then they didn’t notice that McAfee had switched the “auto-renewal” on again and found themselves paying 4 or 5 times as much for McAfee in their second year as they paid for the initial subscription.
These are just two of the ‘dirty tricks’ I found used by two of the largest companies selling computer security software. I suspect there are many more.

6 comments to Computer security company tricks to cheat their customers?

  • William Boreham

    I notice Which rates the Avast and AVG ‘free’ programmes higher than the pay-for McAfee and Norton.
    I have pay-for Bitdefender after Which tested all the various software offerings.
    I previously had Kaspersky and must say, I didn’t notice any difficulty changing to Bit, but did lose some month’s worth of Kaspersky.

  • A Thorpe

    The trick is to make you believe that you get better security if you pay for it. Use the free options and look at computer reviews to decide. The difference is that with the free options you have to wait longer for updates. I have yet to encounter anybody who has had a computer virus.

  • Julia Green

    Had the same problem, a clever computer man I use recommended ESET NOD32 which I’ve used for years, seems to be very good.

    ALSO, are your computers REALLY backed up if one gets stolen? It happened to me but I had ‘Carbonite’ the continuously backing up system – and it saved my life.

    Onto serious matters. Batten has murdered UKIP:

  • loppoman

    Been using Windows Defender for ages and never had any problems.

  • Stillreading

    I’ve always relied on the free AVG and never had a problem, not even when, after the year’s free provision of Norton which came with my laptop expired several years ago and I vigorously declined to purchase another year. I did though find, like you, that it was impossible to uninstall the Norton, so it still sits on my laptop, doing nothing. However, there was no problem at all installing the free AVG. The latter does, of course, repeatedly try to make you buy a superior version – the regular pop-ups are an irritation – but I’ve learned to disregard them. Same goes for when one of their pop-ups tells me my “drivers are out of date” and wants to check and update them. The first time this happened I was tricked into asking AVG to identify and rectify said out of date drivers, only to find that it was an attempt to make me purchase something. Again I declined. Who knows how long AVG will continue to offer their free virus protection, but until it’s withdrawn I highly recommend it. I and all my family rely on it as our only virus protection. Together with the Microsoft fire wall with which all computers using a Microsoft Windows product are automatically provided, you are pretty safe. No one is protected against their own stupidity of course. Every email from an unidentifiable source is best regarded as a phishing attempt and deleted BEFORE opening, to avoid the inadvertent acquisition of malware and naturally all bank details must be appropriately carefully entered, particularly when making an on-line transfer of money. Remember, the crooks rely on naivety and carelessness o infiltrate our systems and make a profit. Just don’t give them the opportunity! (Having said that, I feel desperately sorry for all the elderly who grew up and operated throughout their working and social lives in an environment where it was assumed the ordinary citizen could reply on a basic level of decency and honesty from those with whom they had contact. These are the people who have fallen foul of on-line and telephone phishing scams and whom the banks, who are supposed to protect our money, are casting aside with contempt like so much detritus when they’ve been robbed of their life’s savings.)

  • Paul Burke

    What’s the big surprise? Businesses want your money and do anything to get it. All businesses run these cheap introductory offers because they know a significant number of customers will stay despite the subsequent price hike and those who leave don’t matter because even the introductory price incorporated a huge profit.

    Anti-virus software often comes attached to some other download and gets installed along with the software you actually want, this so-called anti-virus software is more often than not just a way to scare you into thinking your computer is riddled with problems and you can only fix them by upgrading to the full version. I’ve found some free software to be a bit like that. It works mostly but often ‘finds’ problems that unfortunately can’t be cured by the free version but certainly can with the premium version. We. as simple computer users. have no idea whether the identified threats are real or not and tend to be scared enough to buy the upgrade.
    I’m sure can’t be true of course but it not beyond possibility that computer viruses are themselves a creation of the anti-virus software sellers; just a mad thought!

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