Organizations and individuals alike have, for decades, relied on virtual private network (VPN) technology. It has helped protect sensitive communication, preserve anonymity, foster privacy and circumvent censorship. With billions of people online today and a wide range of hackers seeking access to user data, VPN services are more important than they’ve ever been.
That said, whereas the advantages of VPN technology are clear, users may find themselves grappling with more than they had bargained for. Before subscribing for a VPN service, take note of these scams that can compromise your data and lose your hard-earned cash.
1. The Fake VPN
Some organizations will purport to offer a VPN service, but won’t even bother to establish the basics. They don’t encrypt your traffic, therefore leaving you exposed to a plethora of risks. It means any sensitive data you send via the service is exposed to the ISP, government, hackers and other third parties.
In the worst case, the provider may inject malware into your system that would be used to track your online activities, hijack your accounts, steal your banking information and slow down your system performance. They could coopt your devices into a botnet and inadvertently leverage your computer or smartphone as a weapon in a DDoS attack.
How do you tell a fake VPN? Simply, check out user reviews. Google Reviews and Facebook Reviews can be a good place to gauge sentiment. Read more extensive reviews that delve into the details of the product—something similar to this extensive SurfShark review. Fake VPNs spend little on infrastructure, so they will ultimately score dismally when dissected by a comprehensive review.
2. The Free VPN
It takes you time, effort, and patience to earn every dollar you make. So it’s not surprising that free stuff is so alluring. Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to get something of value without spending any money? That’s why the free VPN is the number one VPN scam. While you may not be paying any money for the service, the question you should ask is, what is in it for the provider.
Usually, a VPN’s monetization strategy will be apparent from the get-go. There are reputable VPN services that offer a free version. Ordinarily, this is achieved by placing a cap on bandwidth in the hope that the user will be persuaded to become a paying customer. They could also recoup their costs via ads.
Nevertheless, be on the lookout for red flags. One is the use of outdated, insecure protocols such as PPTP. Some free VPNs make money by selling your data to a third party without your consent. Others will insert tracking objects in your system that help them capture your web traffic.
Free VPNs are a classic case of getting what you pay for. If you want a quality, reliable VPN service, it’s best to go for a paid plan.
3. The Lifetime Subscription
A number of VPN services offer a lifetime subscription. The cost can be impressively low. When juxtaposed against what you’d envisage a lifetime to be, it certainly looks like a bargain worth grabbing at the earliest opportunity.
Unfortunately, lifetime subscriptions are at best, misleading and at worst, fraudulent. It’s important to bear in mind that lifetime here refers not to your lifetime, but rather the service provider’s. And here is where things can get ugly. Some VPNs will cancel the contract after just 24 months. If the entity survives for just a few years and is wound up after collecting tons of subscription fees, you may have little recourse.
Things aren’t any better for VPN companies that seem to actually provide the service. They may recoup their costs from the ultra-low subscription fees by selling your data to third parties. In other instances, you may be bombarded with numerous ads anytime you go online. You may also get your browser hijacked and redirected to sites you had no intention of visiting.
The good news is there are plenty of reputable VPNs out there. By keeping an eye on these scams, you’ll be more likely to make the right decision.