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The price of free software?

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Has your computer been acting strange lately? Maybe your default search engine or other browser settings changed, or you’re getting suspicious warnings about your computer’s performance. Are you are seeing ads that don’t seem to belong – like ones that cover up parts of the webpage or are on a site that doesn’t usually show ads? If so, you may have unwanted software on your computer. Your next step: get rid of any malware.

But how does unwanted software get on your computer in the first place? If you installed some free software, you may have accidentally downloaded it at the same time. Extra software – and sometimes malware – can get bundled together with popular free software downloads, and you might not realize what you’re getting. To avoid this problem:

  • Be on the lookout when installing free software. Read each screen during the installation process. Choose the “custom” install option instead of the “express” option. Then, if you see software you don’t want in the bundle, decline the additional program or just exit the installation process.

Install and protect your computer navigation between Express and custom displays

  • If you want a particular download, go straight to that company’s site – or another source you trust. Sites that offer lots of popular software – for free – are more likely to bundle it with extra software.
  • Talk to your kids. If you let your kids download software, help them recognize reputable sources.
  • Don’t click on popups or banner ads. Clicking on popups or banner ads about your computer’s performance might start a download of unwanted software.
  • Keep your security software up to date. Up-to-date security software can catch malicious software and protect your computer.

For more tips, read more about malware.


This is good information and is a Best practice for your Smart phone also.

The FTC continues to provide useful information to help protect us from computer criminals, hackers and just plain annoyances. I often share this with 'senior' friends who tend to click on things they should not.

DC Bill -- thanks for sharing our tips. Your friends can also subscribe to Scam Alerts and get tips by email. Did you know you can order free material to share, or leave out at your library or community center? Our Pass It On fact sheets are written especially for people age 65+ and cover imposter scams, tech support scams and other current topics.

I got 3 boxes of these and shared between our library and senior center. Great info packet.

andreacha - That's great! Thank you. Have you seen the new tip sheet about Tech Support Scams? If there's a topic you'd like us to cover, please write back and let me know.

When the FTC distributes tips via email containing links that recipients are invited to click on, doesn't that encourage people to click on links in unexpected email? Since email can be sent out pretending to be from the FTC, that doesn't sound like a helpful idea.

The FTC doesn't send unexpected email.

People to sign up to get Scam Alerts and Consumer Information Updates. You can subscribe too.

If you see an FTC imposter email, please report it at

Thank you (FTC) Attorney. Please assist? Im illegally Compromised. All My Security is illegally illegally Breached. I don't know who it is that's doing it to Me. Please Respond ? James.

Are you having a problem with your computer? If you think there is a problem with bad software on your computer, read this article about malware. The article tells how to detect malware, and how to get rid of it.

Are you worried that someone took your personal information? You can get help with identity theft. Go to Click on the words that say "Get Started" and you can fill out a report online. You'll get letters you can send to fix problems caused by identity theft. Or call the FTC to report identity theft at 1-877-438-4338.

It would be nice if the FTC pressured Congress to make adding hidden software illegal.

When I first ran into these nasty unwanted addons, it was with a program I love to use. Now I don't trust them. I hate having my default search engine changed, and unwanted tool bars added out of the blue.

I am extremely cautious about looking for boxes already clicked for me, that I must unclick. I think this business practice is stupid, as it just makes the user hate the program that did the crap, and entices the user to go looking for their competition.

Very informative.

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