The sneaky anti-virus software trick
Don't fall for this legal scam peddled by anti-virus software providers...
Trojan horses, worms, firewalls, botnets... yes, the language of computer viruses reads like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster! But as anyone whose computer has been infected by one will tell you, the reality of computer viruses isn’t half as exciting as its terminology.
Millions of new computer viruses are created every year, most with the aim of stealing your personal details or simply just crashing your computer. That’s why it’s never been more important to get hold of anti-virus software to protect your computer from all those pesky Trojan horses and worms.
But unfortunately some anti-virus software providers have been peddling a bit of a trick of their own recently...
This sneaky scam is basically another reincarnation of the old automatic renewal trick. When you initially purchase anti-virus software and install it on your computer you should notice a counter informing you of how long the program will remain fully up to date for before you have to renew your subscription.
But what you might not notice is that many anti-virus providers will automatically sign you up for their ‘automatic renewal service’. This means that 30 days before your subscription runs out, the anti-virus provider will automatically sign you up for another year and charge your card the current renewal rate.
Now, the provider will claim that you’re automatically renewed ‘on your existing package’ or ‘at the current renewal rate’, but the reality is that this amount will usually be far higher than the amount they’ll charge new customers.
lovemoney.com reader Martin Emmerson contacted us after his debit card was unexpectedly charged a £70 renewal fee for a year’s subscription to McAfee anti-virus. This was over twice the amount Mr Emmerson originally paid for the software and was charged to his account 30 days before his subscription was due to run out.
John Fitzsimons looks at some of the worst computer rip offs, and how to avoid them
When he contacted McAfee, Mr Emmerson was told that the initial £30 rate was a special offer and hence not available through automatic renewal. The unexpected nature of this charge also caused Mr Emmerson to go overdrawn on his current account until he complained to McAfee and was given a refund.
Anti-virus software providers claim to use automatic renewal to ensure their customers' virus protection is never interrupted. And obviously if you’re happy to be automatically billed for the ‘current renewal rate’ every year then you’ll have no problem with this current system.
But you should be aware that by changing anti-virus providers after your subscription has finished or simply by just not signing up for automatic renewal in the first place, you could make big savings.
First off, if you don’t know if you’re signed up for automatic renewal you should either head to your anti-virus account on the provider's website or give the software company a call to check. All anti-virus providers will allow you to switch off automatic renewal, so if you’re not comfortable with it; turn it off!
In fact, there’s no need to pay for anti-virus software at all. As we reported in 10 things you should never pay for, you can download anti-virus software for free from sites such as avast!, AVG or Avira Antivir. But if you do go for one of these free anti-virus programs you still need to be really careful when downloading files or following unknown links. Free anti-virus programs are not usually as up-to-date as paid-for software and hence may be slower to pick up new threats.
That said, I’ve used AVG on my home PC for years now and have never had any problems, so if you’re a casual and careful internet user you should be fine with free software. But if you’re determined to stay with one of the big name, paid-for anti-virus providers, you can still make savings by avoiding automatic renewal.
Make sure you keep an eye on how long you have left on your current subscription and when you reach the last 45 days or so check your anti-virus provider’s current renewal rate. Like most account-based companies, anti-virus providers will save the very best rates for new customers. So if you’re prepared to ditch and switch you could find yourself with a better rate from a different company.
Rob Powell hits the streets to find out what you know about car insurance
If you decide you really want to stick with your current provider, there’s still no harm in trying to haggle down the subscription rate. After all, if they're prepared to offer special rates to new customers, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t offer it to you as well – especially if you’re considering leaving them.
Unfortunately anti-virus companies aren’t the only people to utilise the sneaky automatic renewal trick. As we reported in The dangers of ignoring your post, many insurers and subscription or membership-based services will also encourage you to sign up using direct debit.
Paying for insurance policies on an annual basis rather than a rolling monthly subscription will help you keep track of your various policies, and you should save a few pounds by paying in one lump sum as well! Make sure you keep a note in your calendar of when you took out any policy and when 12 months has elapsed compare prices again to make sure you’re getting the best deal. You can find the market leading rates for home, car, annual travel and life insurance right here at lovemoney.com.
What do you think?
Is this just good sense on the part of anti-virus providers to keep you fully protected? Or is just a sneaky scam to keep you shelling out at inflated rates?
Let us know your thoughts in comment box below.