A lot of people feel that the $79.99 is well spent, they don’t realize they’ve been fleeced.

At best, the downloaded software will have done nothing. At worst, it could conceivably be malware that could steal financial and password information, or cause the computer to distribute spam. The user has been the victim of “scareware” — bogus security software that pretends to find infections and then pretends to remove it after the user has paid for a license.

Scareware is a rapidly growing problem. About 25 new samples of scareware are turning up every day. There’s a good reason for scareware’s rapid growth: It’s the easiest way for criminals to make money on the Internet, with millions of frightened computer users paying to download the stuff every month. For obvious reasons, it’s hard to get precise information about exactly how much money scareware scares out of users. But by most estimates, scareware is a billion-dollar industry.