Wednesday, December 19, 2012

McAfee’s Persistent Trickery

I recently received what appeared to be a reminder from McAfee to renew my subscription to their antivirus software. On the surface this seems like a useful reminder service for an existing customer who wants to maintain continuous security coverage for my PC, but all is not what it seems.

A curious omission from the McAfee email was any mention of when my subscription expires. After some digging for an old password, I was able to log in to my McAfee account to discover that my subscription will last another 20 months! Why would I want to extend my subscription for another year or two now? There’s half a chance that my PC won’t even be working by then.

Another annoyance is that McAfee renewed an old subscription on a PC that I had scrapped. I thought I had been careful to check the “never automatically renew” box, but either I missed it or this box got reset somehow. Fortunately, renewal attempts by McAfee don’t work if I have an updated credit card with a new expiry date and 3-digit code, but this time they managed to renew me on a junked PC before my credit card had expired.

Getting my money back took some effort. After calling the 800-number and waiting for quite a while, the first person on the phone tried to put me off by saying they couldn’t refund my money. After I got a manager on the phone, he promised to return my money, but only after he found out that I have another McAfee subscription on my current PC. I’m not sure how cooperative he would have been if I was leaving McAfee altogether.

It bothers me that it takes such diligence to keep from overpaying. McAfee is entitled to run their business as they please, but this has left a bad taste in my mouth and makes me wonder about trying their competition.

15 comments:

  1. Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn is this: If the big banks make money by cheating, if they get caught and pay a pittance, then perhaps companies such as McAfee feel that cheating is the way to go.

    I have been very happy with both Norton and Kaspersky.

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  2. @Mark: I had a bad experience with Norton many years ago, but maybe it's time to check them out again.

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  3. My McAfee subscription was also auto-renewed without me having knowingly authorized that action. The first time it happened was last year and that was different from all of the previous years when I renewed my subscription. My credit card validity date and secure code changed since last year so McAfee wasn't able to pull the same stunt again this year. (Although I have received at least four emails and a physical letter telling me I need to renew.) Since I'm going to be junking the PC on which I've been using McAfee I thought I use the opportunity to try a different vendor.

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  4. @MMorgan: It sounds like your experience was very similar to mine. It would be interesting to get stats on how much extra money they get from these tactics vs. how much they lose from lost customers. I wonder if they even try to measure the second statistic.

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  5. Why are you paying for anti virus? The reason McAfee does this is because there are plenty of free options out there that work just as well.

    Tremendous waste of money.

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  6. Agreed. No reason to pay for antivirus. AVG or avast as already mentioned.

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  7. @Astin, @IG, @Anonymous: Thanks for the advice. I haven't had much luck with free antivirus software, but I haven't tried either AVG or AVAST.

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  8. Try AVG Michael.

    Free:
    http://free.avg.com/ca-en/homepage

    I've tried a bunch of antivirus software and this is the best. I also have AVG installed on my Android phone :)

    McAfee trickery indeed.

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  9. You might want to get Kaspersky Internet Security, which I've used for years after finding Norton sluggish and McAfee obtrusive.

    KIS is usually on sale on Boxing Day at Best Buy and Future Shop. That's cheaper than buying from the vendor directly. Since you don't provide a credit card, you can't get auto-renewed :)

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  10. Microsoft Security Essentials is also a good free option.

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  11. I use a two software approach to protect my computer from viruses. For my active protection I use AVAST Free or Microsoft Security Essentials and for my passive protection the FREE version of Malwarebytes works really well. The active software is always running protecting my computer and the free version of Malwarebytes only runs and updates when you start the software so I run a scan once a month in case something slips through my active protection.

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  12. Another good option is switch to MacOS, which doesn't require a heavy weight virus detection package and has decent virus protection built in. Macs cost more up front but this is one of the reasons why they are cheaper in the long run.

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  13. Michael, I would suggest you try Microsoft Security Essentials. It is a pretty good antivirus, with a very low footprint. If you want to pay for an antivirus program, I would go with Kaspersky as recommended by another poster. Also, if you plan to upgrade to Windows 8, note that it ships with built-in antivirus protection.

    Greg: Mac OS X offers some basic malware protection, but it is actually useless against much of the Mac malware out there. There are many good reasons to choose Mac OS over Windows or Linux, but in 2012 security is not it. There are two Apple products on Kaspersky's top 10 vulnerabilities list, and not a single one from Microsoft: http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2012/11/02/microsofts-security-team-is-killing-it-not-one-product-on-kasperskys-top-10-vulnerabilities-list/

    Note that I'm not saying that Windows is more secure. IMO, malware protection is more about being aware of what you're doing on your computer. Anti-malware software is bad most of the time, and instills a false sense of security; these products capitalize on fear, but most offer very little actual protection.

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  14. I’ve been one of those people who are quite happy with McAfee (used since the 1980s, when they started), and they haven’t pulled a stunt like this (though Vodafone has!), but the program is getting unnecessarily complex. We have AVG on one of our computers, and it works really well. I’m thinking of going to AVG for all machines now, because McAfee Firewall is messing up our network horribly. Glad to know others have found AVG suitable for their needs—as I surf the web, that seems to be the consensus. Generally, people haven’t anything bad to say about it.

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