VPNs are designed to protect the online privacy and data of an individual, a business, organization, or company.
VPNs have been around for decades, providing greater privacy and making it easier to manage security on home, school, company, and even public networks. A VPN is your best line of defense to prevent your online data from falling into the wrong hands.
However, not all VPNs are created equal. Each VPN provides different levels of support and service. If you’re shopping for a new VPN or planning to switch to a different service, you need to weigh your options carefully. There are VPNs that provide genuine, quality service, but there are those that are better at taking your money than providing the service they claim to offer. There are some VPNs that claim to protect your data, yet still log user activities behind your back. And this is just some examples of VPN scams users have to watch out for.
How Is a VPN Supposed to Work?
Online security is the main reason why users turn to VPN. With malware and other malicious attacks getting more prevalent these days, it is important to invest in a security measure that would protect your online privacy and data. And VPN is supposed to do that.
Using a VPN can also help keep your information away from marketers, advertisers, and other third parties. This is a growing concern today since it involves massive companies, such as Google and Facebook. You don't want your information to be used to deliver those annoying ads everywhere.
VPN offers online protection by encrypting your internet connection whenever you browse online. Your encrypted data then goes through a secure digital tunnel, known as the server, to hide your actual location and IP address. The website you are visiting will see your traffic as coming from the VPN server, instead of your computer.
Aside from offering online protection, a VPN also allows users to browse the internet anonymously, access blocked content, download torrent files safely, and bypass internet censorship. When you think about it, a VPN lets you do things that you can't normally do on a regular internet connection. The question is, are VPNs actually doing what they promised?
VPN Red Flags
Unfortunately, taking VPNs at face value is a huge mistake. Users tend to trust what the VPN companies have to say, but actually have no way of double-checking the service and holding the VPN company accountable when it fails to deliver on its promises.
In fact, according to a study made by the ICSI, a networking and security group, the majority of the 300 VPN apps they reviewed failed to provide the privacy and security they promised. Some of the VPNs reviewed do not use encryption, while others shared data with advertisers and third parties without notification. A good number of the VPN apps reviewed also logs and analyzes data.
It is hard to uncover a VPN scam because what VPN companies say isn't what they always do. Sometimes, the services offered by a VPN company may seem legitimate and fairly priced. But if you look closely, you will realize that some of these promises are actually hard to keep. One of the telltale signs of a VPN scam is when the company offers broad statements about their services, instead of giving specific concrete details. When you see something like this, be warned.
When something seems too good to be true, there's a huge chance that something is not quite right about the service. These scams are all designed to deceive customers in some way or another, so do not expect everything to be laid out clearly at first. You need to do your own analysis to determine whether the VPN is a scam or not.
How do you protect yourself from these VPN scams?
Common VPN Scams to Watch Out For
This guide will cover the 10 VPN scams every user should be aware of to avoid falling for their tricks. This can also be used as a checklist when choosing a VPN provider to ensure that you make the right choice.
Scam #1: The Not-So-Free VPN.
We all love anything with the word “Free” — free meals, free rides, free coupons, free trial, and all sorts of free stuff. The same thing is true for free VPN. However, is “free VPN” actually free?
You have to remember that nothing in life is truly free. Even if you don’t pay for it, there will be something you ought to give in return, and sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
When you use a legitimate and good VPN, you won’t have to worry about your data being collected and sold to marketing agencies and advertising entities. This is exactly what most free VPNs do: keep a log of your internet activities and sell them to third parties for advertising purposes. Some free VPNs notify users of this issue, but questionable VPN providers collect data without the user’s knowledge and permission.
Aside from selling your personal information, free VPNs are also known to inject malware on devices where the VPN app is installed to improve tracking. Free VPNs generally do not encrypt your data, making you more vulnerable to spies and online attacks.
Scam #2: Fake VPNs.
Fake VPNs are just as dangerous as free VPNs. There are also a lot of free VPNs that are also fake. But trying to identify a genuine VPN from a fake one requires a lot of research and testing.
How do you define a fake VPN? Basically, a fake VPN is a VPN that takes advantage of the consumer’s need for internet privacy and makes money out of it. Instead of providing online privacy and security, a fake VPN does the opposite. It is a total hoax designed to make money for the developers.
What makes a fake VPN dangerous? A genuine VPN will hide your internet activities from ISPs and protect your online data. A fake VPN, on the other hand, collects all your online activities and sells your data to third parties. It can also steal your bandwidth and use your computer as a dedicated server for funneling online traffic, such as the case with Hola VPN. What’s more alarming about fake VPNs is that they don’t encrypt your data, leaving it naked for all the snoopers and attackers to see?
The only way to spot a fake VPN is by reading all the fine print and researching about the VPN provider before downloading the app. You should also watch out for common VPN red flags, such as ambiguous claims, inaccurate information, too-good-to-be-true offers, and so on. And remember, if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.
Scam #3: Fake VPN Reviews.
When users want to know about a VPN service they want to use, the first thing they look at is the number of downloads on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The next they read is the reviews. The ratings and what users say about the VPN can tell how popular a VPN is and how effective it is. Users also leave comments regarding the quality, usability, and overall performance of the VPN.
But don’t let these reviews fool you. Some reviews are phony and were designed to increase the ratings of the app or software. It is possible to encounter a VPN service with a good rating, only to find out about its poor performance after installation.
When choosing a VPN, be thorough about your research. Don’t rely on the opinions of inexperienced users and fake reviewers. Review expert websites that are knowledgeable about VPNs because they are more reliable and accurate.
Scam #4: No Logging Policy.
When a VPN service provider says that they don’t collect, log, or store your data, don’t take their statement at face value. Most VPNs claim that they do not log your data and use them one way or another, but it’s difficult for consumers to verify their claims.
So when choosing a VPN, find a reputable VPN service provider and read all the fine print. If there are any contradictions in their no-logging policy, then that service provider is probably lying.
Scam #5: Unsubstantiated Claims.
Consumers should also be wary of VPN service providers that boasts of being the most secure or has the fastest connection. These ambiguous claims are difficult to prove and are generally used for marketing purposes only.
Unless backed up by data, don’t just believe whatever the VPN company tells you. For example, a VPN service claiming to be the fastest VPN should verify this with a speed comparison against other VPNs on the market. The same goes for best encryption or best technology claims.
Scam #6: Unclear Pricing.
When looking for a VPN service provider, one of the factors that users consider is the price. Is the monthly subscription fee expensive? Do I need to pay for the app? When a VPN service asks for an enormous sum of money, be wary. The same goes for VPN providers that say you have to pay absolutely nothing for the service.
Choose a VPN with a clear pricing structure. Know exactly how much you’ll pay and when you will be billed. It is also best to shop around first and get an idea of how much competitive VPN service costs. Most VPN service providers bill their customers either monthly, bi-annually, or annually. If a VPN bills you weekly, then you have to be alarmed.
Scam #7: Spammy VPN Website.
Users turn to VPN for online privacy and security. So, if the VPN can’t protect even its own website, would you trust it with your data? You’ll know if the VPN website uses a secure connection by looking at the address bar.
If you see a Not secure tag beside the website address, then the website is using HTTP instead of HTTPS. HTTPS encrypts the website traffic, while HTTP does not. You can also check the website URL to see if it has HTTP or HTTPS in the address. If the VPN website does not encrypt its website, then its promises of anonymity and security are most likely false.
Scam #8: Lifetime Subscription.
When you see lifetime VPN subscriptions advertised on third-party websites, these are most probably a scam. Legitimate and quality VPN services cost a lot to run and maintain. VPN service providers pass these overhead costs onto the users to make profits. If a VPN service offers a lifetime subscription with the price of a regular one-year service, how is that VPN provider going to survive? When you look at legitimate VPN websites, none of them offer life subscription packages. Remember, if you want quality service, you have to be willing to pay for it.
Scam #9. VPN Review Sites Designed to Promote Their Own Service.
Competing in the VPN market has become tougher as the number of VPN providers increases over time. To make matters more complicated, some VPN providers create their own VPN review websites to promote their own service.
So when you’re doing your research about VPNs, don’t trust random VPN review websites. Look for expert reviews from credible websites with a transparent source. Check the About page to see who is behind the reviews and the Contact page for contact information. If the VPN review website does not have any of these pages, then you have no idea of the author’s background.
Another way of checking if the VPN review website was created by a particular VPN company, look at some of the posts and see where the links go. If the links redirect to the same VPN website, then you’ve found the people behind it. If the articles are also trying to sell you instead of educating you, then it is probably another promotional tool.
Scam #10. VPNs Requiring Irrelevant Private Information.
When you sign up for a VPN, take note of the information the VPN service provider requests from you. Most VPN providers require only an email address and a name for the account. If you think that the VPN website is asking too much information, like your phone number and address, you might need to think twice about signing up. And when you install the VPN app, check the permissions being requested to see if there are unnecessary information it is asking access for. The purpose of using a VPN is to protect your anonymity in the first place.
Increasing public concerns on online privacy and security has been met by equally increasing instances of VPN scams. The best way to avoid these scams is to be aware of them and to use multiple legitimate sources to do your background research before subscribing.