McAfee scam email warning: check your inbox for these common threats

McAfee scam emails regularly evade detection and trick people into believing their antivirus protection is expiring. Here’s how to spot them.

Boxes of McAfee security software displayed alongside Norton Anti-virus software
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan)

Fake antivirus emails are a long-held scamming tactic: McAfee scam emails have become some of the most common in recent years.

The latest scams are often reworked versions of previously successful scams. 

Last year Action Fraud (opens in new tab) reported that it had received more than 2,800 reports of fake McAfee emails which led to the removal of 144k scam URLs.

Scammers have clearly seen results when impersonating antivirus software: similar emails have continued over the years and this year will be no different. But what do the McAfee scam emails look like and why are they so successful?

McAfee scam emails

Screenshot of fraudulent McAfee email

(Image credit: Future)

These fake McAfee emails may at first appear to be fairly obvious fakes - they are littered with spelling and grammar mistakes and have arrived from emails that clearly have nothing to do with McAfee itself.

But the content of the emails isn’t as important as what the scammers want you to feel when you receive them. As with so many fake emails and texts, the goal is to create a sense of panic with claims that your antivirus software ‘expired today’, ‘may have ended’ or that a ‘special discount’ is only valid for a limited time.

They are also aiming to catch you off guard by impersonating the very software you’d expect to protect you from online attacks: it’s hoped that your trust in the McAfee name will lead to you not questioning any correspondence. 

Side by side screenshots of two fraudulent McAfee emails

(Image credit: Future)

If the emails are read in a rush or sadly find a victim who may not be as well-versed in fraud tactics as others, it could be enough to encourage them to click through and make a payment to the fraudsters.

The websites that these fake emails take you to have nothing to do with McAfee,  only existing to capture sensitive personal information, such as your bank/card details.

If you’re ever unsure if an email is genuine it’s vital that you do not panic. Take the time to contact McAfee via its official channels (do not call any numbers or click any links on the suspicious email when you do this). 

You can then ask McAfee to confirm if it has sent you any correspondence, and find out the current status of any subscription you may have.

McAfee has also published a list of its legitimate email domains (opens in new tab)

I’ve been taken in by a McAfee scam email: what should I do?

If you think you may have entered sensitive information, such as your bank/card details, into a third-party site you were taken to by a suspicious ‘McAfee’ email, you need to let your bank know what’s happened via its official channels ASAP.

Your bank should work with you to cancel your card, block any pending payments (if required) and refund the money you’ve lost.

How to report a scam and get your money back

You should also then keep an eye out for any follow-up scams that could occur if you’ve given contact details, such as your email address, postal address or phone number, away to fraudsters. Treat any contact you receive out of the blue with caution.

How can I report McAfee scam emails?

Fake emails and phishing websites can be reported to the National Cyber Security Centre at report@phishing.gov.uk (opens in new tab) - action can then be taken to remove these websites. 

  • McAfee is also one of a growing number of brands to have its own dedicated reporting email:spam@mcafee.com (opens in new tab)
  • McAfee provides advice around email scams, including how to log in and view your invoices (opens in new tab) 
  • It also provides a comprehensive guide to other types of impersonation fraud, including phone and chat scams on its Scammer Education page (opens in new tab) 

If you’re also going to warn friends and family about a fake email, send them a screenshot - never forward the email directly.

George Martin

George is a freelance consumer journalist with a keen interest in scams and housing. He worked for the Consumers' Association for seven years where he was the editor of Which? Conversation - his work on exposing new scams saw him often quoted in the national press. 


George has been at the forefront of the cladding and building safety crisis, campaigning for the rights of leaseholders and giving a voice to those caught up in the scandal - as a result he was nominated for Property Journalist of the Year in 2021 at the Property Press Awards.