Fighting the Phonies: Rogue AntiVirus and Fake Tech Support

• in categories: advice • by: Michelle Balestrat

It’s a fact of life: scams are rife in the tech world, particularly on the consumer side.

An office phone.
Image credit: Karolina Krabat via Flickr (see footnote).

While almost anything from shopping to gaming can turn out to be less-than-legit online, it’s particularly worrying when security-related software and services can’t always be trusted, either.

When it comes to staying safe on the Internet, remember that healthy skepticism is your one big advantage.

Fake Antivirus Software

It’s the one piece of software we truly place our trust in: our Anti-Virus package.

However, not all of them are quite as they seem. So-called ‘rogue’ Antivirus programs can imitate the behaviour (and even the name and appearance) of trusted software.

The companies that create them can be truly part of the charade, going so far as to imitate legitimate business practices to enhance their credibility. Fake call centres, support email addresses and live chats that offer to help you install the software (and perhaps even get around your real Anti-Virus program’s detection of the fake counterpart!)

These programs exhibit behaviour that differs quite a bit from legitimate Anti-virus software. In particular, a scan for viruses with a rogue AV will almost always show a false positive.

However, to remove the ‘virus’, you will often be required to purchase the full version by providing your credit card details. By providing your payment details, you can quickly become the victim of credit card or identity fraud.

Rogue Anti-virus software ties in with the social engineering tactics used in telephone support scams. Speaking of which…

Fake Support

You might have had a first-hand brush with the IT scam industry yourself: false calls from ‘Microsoft’ have been on the rise for the last several years, parting victims of over three to four hundred dollars each for snake-oil fixes and diagnoses.

Such ‘diagnoses’ might include viewing event logs (which will always show some sort of transient error, even on a perfectly healthy machine), installing fake antivirus programs, as well as logging in remotely to install spyware and even taking down the users’ credit card details for future use.

These scam callers can quickly turn from persuasive to downright abusive – yelling and insulting victims when they question the scammer’s tactics or instructions.

Our Guide to Combatting the Phonies:

  • Stick to getting your anti-virus software from reputable publishers’ official websites, rather than mirror sites like or CNET.

  • Read reviews of the best anti-virus packages to learn what to look for.

  • Avoid making vague Google searches like ‘anti virus download’ or banner advertisements.

  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date. Rogue antivirus programs are detected by all reputable antivirus software packages.

  • Simply hang up on any cold-caller who claims your computer has a virus (spoiler: if you have AV software, it probably doesn’t.)

  • Likewise, anyone calling and claiming to be from ‘Microsoft’ or ‘Windows Support’ is almost surely a scammer. If in doubt, put down the phone.


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