How Do I Detect Fake Antivirus Software?

Rhonda Rivera

Fake antivirus software usually does not offer a trial period, sometimes installs on its own and often pretends to be your operating system by displaying pop-up windows. Some fake programs are sophisticated enough to use trial periods, but most want your money now rather than giving you weeks to figure out the scam. If you do not recall installing the program, it might have installed itself. Displaying pop-ups that try to look like your operating system’s pop-ups is another trick that is used to convince people to pay money for the product. In addition, a good antivirus program will let you uninstall it, but a fake one might not even give you that option.

A fake antivirus program often requires immediate payment.
A fake antivirus program often requires immediate payment.

To better detect fake antivirus software, you should understand how real virus protection programs work. In general, real antivirus software gives users a trial period, usually about one month, before requiring them to purchase the program. On the other hand, a fake antivirus program usually demands payment immediately upon installation. Fake software sometimes claims to find dozens or even hundreds of viruses on your machine. Following this “discovery,” it displays messages that seem urgent, usually saying that you must pay a certain amount of money to remove the viruses.

Fake antivirus software may install on its own.
Fake antivirus software may install on its own.

If you do not remember installing an Internet security program, be wary of it. The name might sound similar to trustworthy antivirus software, but it might have installed itself. To be safe, do not open the program by clicking on its icon or responding to its pop-ups. Run your own antivirus program to search for and uninstall the intruding one. Fake antivirus software is sometimes difficult to uninstall, so you might need special programs, depending on the kind of virus.

Another name for fake antivirus software is scareware. Scareware is basically software that tries to trick you into thinking that the computer is compromised or far slower than normal. Then, you are asked to fix these “problems” by paying for a program, although sometimes the scareware claims that the money is donated to a charity or an environmental foundation. The good thing about scareware is that it often does a bad job of impersonating your computer’s pop-up messages. A lot of scareware still uses pop-up windows that mimic older operating systems, which might give it away if you have a newer operating system or have an installed desktop theme.

Another tell-tale sign of fake antivirus software can be the inability to remove it. Real antivirus software usually has an obvious “Uninstall” option that immediately confirms the uninstallation. A fake antivirus software might not even show up under your list of installed programs, much less have an easy uninstall button.

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