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This question is based on this question recently asked on Ask Different. The long and short of it is, the original poster recently purchased a copy of MacKeeper and was then contacted by phone by someone claiming to be a part of the MacKeeper team requesting access to the original poster’s computer system: Desktop, files, etc…

Now that definitely sounds like a scam. But is MacKeeper software itself actually a scam? Pretty much all of the answers on that page imply in one way or another that MacKeeper software is part of a scam scheme and here are choice bits:

The Wikipedia entry for it doesn’t praise it, but it doesn’t seem to be much more than bad software and not much else:

“MacKeeper is software distributed by Kromtech Alliance and marketed as a way to secure, clean, protect and optimize a computer operating system. The product has received mixed reviews. It has been accused of not performing as advertised and being difficult to fully uninstall. It is heavily promoted through aggressive advertising and affiliate marketing. MacKeeper faced a class-action lawsuit because the company allegedly deceived users into paying for unneeded fixes. The lawsuit was settled in 2015 for US $2 million without any admission of guilt by the company.”

So bluntly: Is MacKeeper software a scam? Or is it just bad and questionable software with an aggressive marketing campaign behind it and not much else?

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    I think this question comes down to your definition of "scam". – Alexander O'Mara May 21 '18 at 16:07
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    @AlexanderO'Mara Precisely. Unfortunately sometimes the line between "scam" and just a bad product or failing to achieve the contract goals is not that clear. A completely different example: a guy in Milan posed himself as a renovator. He signed contracts, asked for initial tranches of money and started destroying the flats. After that he ghosted. When the victim tried to sue him he'd argue that was only failure to keep contractual obligations and hence avoided fraud indictments. It's really hard to tell if MacKeeper's authors are really bad renovators or they just fail to complete the job. – Bakuriu May 21 '18 at 18:40
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    MacKeeper's sales tactics make it look like a scam even if it isn't. They use every dodgy technique to sell their software. Arguably, even if this is not intended to be an out and out scam it does damage to peoples' ability to avoid other scams. – matt_black May 21 '18 at 21:30
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    @AlexanderO'Mara In NYC, there are lots of shady electronic stores that scam people with legitimate products. Like charging you one price for a smartphone, but then charging you more money for the charging cable and adapter that should be included. While what I have described is a scam, there is a very easy way to avoid it: Just buy the smartphone from some other places. In the case of MacKeeper, only one source sells the software. And even if the software itself is benign, the fact that purchasing it means you are hooked into a scam ecosystem of “support” then to me, that is clearly a scam. – JakeGould May 23 '18 at 13:42
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Yes.

Firstly, let's define "scam": my dictionary says a dishonest scheme, while my thesaurus suggests confidence trick which "…exploits characteristics of the human psyche, such as credulity, naïveté…"

MacKeeper routinely uses marketing techniques which, even if viewed in the most charitable light possible, seem likely to skirt the seedier edges of consumer law even if, in some particular jurisdiction, they do not actually violate it. Although much of this aggressive marketing is actually performed by "affiliates" (who receive a large cut of the proceeds), it is notable that over the several years that MacKeeper has been in operation, they have taken no noticeable steps to rein in these "affiliates".

According to a Malwarebytes blog article explaining why they added MacKeeper to their Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP) list:

…the site claims that “Tapsnake” has been detected, and then proceeds to push MacKeeper as a “required” download to remove Tapsnake.

Here’s the thing, though… there is no such thing as Tapsnake on the Mac. It was Android malware that was seen back in 2010, which no longer exists and which was never seen on the Mac.

[…]

Note that the “tech” tells me that there’s “a new virus called Tapsnake that has infected many Macs worldwide.” I’ve had MacKeeper tell me this three times, on three different days and in three different installations of the software. Funny, you’d think we would have heard something about such a large-scale Tapsnake infection, but no… that didn’t happen.

However, it is interesting that MacKeeper itself is telling me that I need to worry about Tapsnake, to scare me into paying (emphasis added) for its anti-virus features. Especially given the previously-documented association with these fake Tapsnake virus scams, which were blamed on “affiliates.”

[…]

Clicking the Download Flash button resulted in the download of an installer that claimed to be an Adobe Flash Player installer. Of course, this installer actually included MacKeeper, as well as some other adware and PUPs. Interestingly, the one thing that the user would have intended to get from this installer – Adobe Flash Player – was somehow not installed. Curious…

I have personally seen pop-up, pop-under and auto-downloading scripts attempting to shovel MacKeeper onto my computer (though they've virtually disappeared now that I use adblocker plugins). These are not the actions of an honest software vendor.

Add to that the fact that MacKeeper behaves very much like a virus itself, making it difficult to remove once you realise how useless and even harmful it is (or even if you just decide against paying for it, or to have your techie great-nephew give a second opinion), and it starts to look very much like a scam. It is literally sticking its foot in the door so you keep having to receive its sales pitch.

The litmus test here is: would your technically-illiterate maiden great-aunt be as likely to fall for these tricks as she would to a door-to-door pyramid-scheme salesman? It seems very likely to me.

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    Excellent breakdown of what other sources state. – JakeGould May 23 '18 at 13:40

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