A great many companies selling antivirus software have affiliate programs that help them expand their reach. Each time an affiliate sells a copy of the software, they get a cut.

It's a good business model used in a wide range of industries, and antivirus software companies have strict rules governing how their affiliates can market.

Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the rules. Recently, BleepingComputer sounded the alarm after being made aware of a scammy email campaign that uses deceptive marketing to try and convince people to buy their product.

The emails claim that the recipient's antivirus software is out of date, and provides convenient links allowing them to renew. The problem is, their software isn't out of date at all. It's a lie, designed to frighten people who aren't necessarily tech savvy into spending money they don't need to spend, all in the name of lining someone's pocket.

All scams take advantage of a few basic realities of modern life: Many people are too busy to check themselves to see exactly when their antivirus software expires. Many more simply don't know how. In both cases, an email recipient is likely to just sigh, pull out his or her credit card and spend a few bucks to keep the machine they're on protected.

It's easy to understand why the scam works, but that makes it no less despicable.

If you know anyone who isn't especially computer savvy and you feel they might fall victim to a scam like this, here is what to do. Gently remind them that whatever antivirus software they're using, the software itself will remind them when it's about to expire. There is no email needed, and before they spend any money, it's better to do some checking to verify that their expiration date is approaching. If they don't know how to check, they almost certainly know someone who does.

We may not be able to keep these scammers from ripping people off, but we can certainly put a dent in their profits, and that's a very good thing.

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