Q: I am confused why I keep getting bills in my email for McAfee and Norton antivirus software. I tell them that I already paid but they either just send me another bill or the email bounces. How can I stop getting these bills?
A: As a general rule, any email you get that indicates you need to call, log in, or otherwise pay an outstanding bill for a product or service you don’t use is a scam. Since people aren’t always sure what software they have on their Mac or PC, too many will be confused by these invoices and pay since they don’t want to be vulnerable to malware.
Worse are those email messages that say you’ve already paid an amount like $495.99 for a year’s subscription to Norton or McAfee, offering up a phone number to call if there’s an issue or problem.
Those are a direct line to scammers in India, Eastern Europe, or elsewhere and they will connect you with someone who is trained to extract as much information as they can from you. Credit card number? Address? Mother’s maiden name “for security purposes”? Even sometimes account passwords if they’re particularly convincing.
Instead, everyone who uses the Internet, even if just for email and chats with family, needs to be more skeptical! Don’t believe anything you get via email, text message or voicemail without confirming it through a known channel. An email that says you’ve already paid the bill? Check with your credit card company to confirm, not their bogus phone number.
A common tactic for scammers is to ask you to “confirm” data: “Can you confirm your credit card number, please, so we can check if the payment completed?” But you should never share your credit card info with anyone you don’t know. If it’s ostensibly a company with which you do business or have bought a product, use the phone number on their Web site to initiate a call to customer service, not the one in the possibly bogus email message.
Scammers are also great at impersonating someone, particularly with text message scams. You get a message from an unknown number and it’s “your cousin Susan” and she’s in jail in a third-world nation and needs money! Maybe before you respond, give Susan a quick call to find out if she really is in that situation. Don’t have a cousin Susan? Well, then it’s most certainly not legit!
Finally, scammers are allergic to legitimate payments, so they’ll ask you to pay in gift cards or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. No real company is going to insist on those forms of payment; if you use a credit card, the bank can flag fraud and often protect you if the transaction proves bogus, too.
There are companies that bill via email but 99% of them support you logging in to their site and communicating through secure channels. Use those instead, and be safe out there.