Gotcha: Automatic Security-Software Renewals

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The next time you buy PC security software online with a credit card, make sure you're not buying into a longer agreement than you intended. A new trend in the U.S. security-software industry is to sell the software as a service that is billed to your credit card automatically each year--unless you take measures to opt out first.

McAfee started automatically renewing customers in 2001, but over the past year both Symantec and Microsoft (with its new Windows Live OneCare products) have also adopted automatic renewals.

How to protect yourself from being surprised? When Symantec customers sign up for security products, the company sends them a link to a cancellation form they can complete to opt out of auto-renewals. In North America, McAfee customers can call 800/791-4577 to decline the auto-renewal. OneCare is the most difficult to opt out of: Customers who have bought the product online must cancel their subscription altogether to opt out (call 866/663-2273).

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