Online thieves are using one of the oldest tricks in the book, fear, to get people into parting with thieir hard earned cash on fake security software which ironically make their computers even more vulnerable to attacks.
Research carried out by security firm Symantec found out that there were more than 250 different types of so-called scareware applications available on the market with those behind them earning a staggering £850,000 each.
Over the past few years, a slew of fake security applications have cropped up, coercing web users to download "rogue" security software using flashing ads, error messages and security alerts and pay between $30 and $100 to make their computers apparently more secured.
Even more worrying is that thousands of unscrupulous webmasters are joining in the fray using affiliates schemes to make a quick profit.
They often turn to blackhat SEO and distribute the fake security applications to unsuspecting users who click on websites and links that feature prominently on search engine results pages.
Each successful installation is said to bring in between $0.01 and $0.55 and some enterprising rogue security applications distributors have gone as far as dolling out VIP points and prizes such as electronics and luxury cars as bonuses.
David Wall, of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies in the University of Leeds, commented that "Scareware creators can scam thousands of people for comparatively small amounts of money all at the same time and make huge aggregate profits".
Symantec says that there are around 200,000 websites worldwide that distribute those fake security software and many of them use search engines like Google to lure their victims. There are fears that millions of computers worldwide have been hit by those scammers with around 43 million attempted downloads in one year.
Scareware on the rise as scammers prey on security conscious (opens in new tab)
Fake security software in millions of computers: Symantec (opens in new tab)
Cyber criminals make big bucks with scareware (opens in new tab)