9 VPN Scams You Need to Avoid

Updated on: 20 February 2019
Updated on:20 February 2019

If you are considering using a VPN service, then you may have heard about a number of VPN scams that could be delaying your decision to use one. Please rest assured that you are not alone with these concerns and you are right to conduct research into these matters before willingly downloading any software onto your devices.

With more people than ever before becoming concerned with their online privacy and security, this presents a huge opportunity for VPN service providers to capitalize on the demand for a product that helps protect users and deliver a solution that ensures their online activities and actions remain undetected. However, there are some unscrupulous businesses who use this demand in order to benefit. While the use of VPNs is becoming more commonplace, there are a number of scams that you need to watch out for this article will help you detect VPN scams and know exactly what to look for in a genuine VPN service provider.

1. How to Protect Yourself from VPN Scams

In this post, we outline the top ten VPN scams and help you find the best VPN provider that offers the right benefits, at the right price, without any risk of scams.

2. Free VPNs

When you consider the best VPNs to use, there are many offers that look almost too good to be true. In the instance of free VPNs, this is almost always a sign that company is making their money elsewhere, and that they will not have the same strength of service or infrastructure to support growing demand. As such the services they offer will be weak and you will not feel the true benefits of using a VPN.

If you are unsure as to whether a free VPN is legitimate or not, simply ask yourself how that company make their money? If they do not collect a subscription fee from users, how are they able to pay for their servers and their customer support?

Hotspot Shield is just one example of a free VPN that should be avoided at all costs. They keep a log of their user internet and browsing data and then sell this information onto third-parties.

Other providers have been found to inject viruses and tracking software onto your device, so when you think you are simply downloading their software, you are actually downloading viruses that can place unwanted ads, keystroke detection software, and worst still, they intentionally redirect your web traffic to other locations.

They do not encrypt your data, and as a result of this, it leaves personal information that you enter online at grave risk of being intercepted and used for harmful or criminal activities.

3. Fake VPNs

Following on from Free VPNs are Fake VPNs. While the two are closely linked, there are different examples we can give you to demonstrate this point a little clearer.

Hola VPN was once a popular VPN service. However, after it was discovered to be fake VPN, demand for their services started to decline. What they did was offer their users an easy way to hide their IP address, and click to connect from different servers located in different countries across the globe.

However, what they were doing in the background was quite shocking. Once the software was downloaded to your device of choice, it actually used the available bandwidth from your internet connection and sold this online to the highest bidder. This then opened the floodgates for a host of illegal activities to be carried out in the background, on their users’ devices.

More alarmingly, while people reported their internet service to grind to half while using their services, this was because Hola VPN had already sold off your private connection and activities that were highly illegal were being carried out on users devices without their knowledge.

The key to remember is that when you use a VPN, you are giving third-party complete access to your internet activities and with this, all of the data that you enter online, which can include passwords, financial information, and more.

The key to staying safe and avoiding such VPN providers is to instead, choose a VPN provider who you pay a small subscription to, and one which has policies in place such as the zero logging of client data, and encryption of your web traffic.

4. Apple and Android Store Ratings and Reviews

If you are researching online to find the best VPN service to use. Please disregard any reviews you might read on the Android and Apple App stores. Amongst the many fake reviews that are placed daily via these channels, the users who left such reviews were probably completely unaware of the security holes in the products they were using.

As just one example, Betternet has thousands of positive reviews, yet it is one of the worst free VPNs available today. They have been found to have been breaching data protection assurances in a number of ways, and they do not offer total security to their users, placing them and their equipment at risk.

  • Logging of user data and later selling to unknown sources online
  • Placing malware and adware onto user devices
  • Leaking user IP addresses
  • Not encrypting data
  • Incorrectly stating that it does not store or log user data

Instead, review expert websites that offer unbiased reviews of the different VPN services.

5. Logging of Customer Data

Now we have reviewed the offerings made by free and fake VPN providers, this statement has already cropped up a couple of times. But what does it actually mean?

There are many VPNs that claim to not collect or log their user data when the reality is that they do collect this information, and in some cases, they do so with the sole intent of selling this data onto third parties in exchange for money.

With a VPN that you pay for, the best assurance you can get is that they genuinely offer encryption services, which would, therefore, make it virtually impossible for anyone to be able to intercept and read the data you transmit online.

6. Beware of False or Claims that Appear Too Good to Be True

If a VPN provider claims to offer the best, fastest or most secure product on the market, this should start the alarm bells ringing. With the top VPNs, many will not make such claims. Instead they will explain how they offer a fast or highly secure service.

In all the independent tests that were carried out online, the speeds will often vary, and there is no single provider that can claim to be the best. It can depend on the time of day, and your location as to the specific speed of service that you get.

Therefore, if a company is trying to use marketing language such as this in order to position themselves in a place that is perceived to be better than they actually are, this can often indicate the company cannot be trusted to deliver honest and accurate information. Essentially, they re trying to entice customers by using false statements.

7. Pricing for the VPN Service

With the huge range of sites, such as our own, that display clear and easy to understand pricing, do not be mislead by the pricing offered by individual companies. It is important to understand exactly how much you will pay on a monthly or annual basis for the VPN service of your choice.

There have been instances in the press where users overpaid for a VPN service for their corporate operations, resulting in a $400 monthly fee. They tricked people into believe they offered a clear pricing on a per-user basis, however, what they didn’t divulge was that each device a person used was then counted an individual user, despite many of the more reputable VPN services offering users to the ability to connect up to 10 devices under the same license.

Before you sign up for any service, make sure you read the terms of payment in full and have a clear understanding of how and when you will be charged. It is commonplace for companies to offer a pay monthly, pay quarterly, and annual pricing plan, each of which differs in the total price.

Most companies will incentivize people to pay upfront for an annual plan with lower prices when they are averaged out over the year. However, with annual plans, you need to pay upfront in order to benefit from the lower prices. You can expect to pay between $50-100 per year for a legitimate VPN service.

8. Unsecured Websites

As you will appreciate, you need to ensure that you do thorough research when deciding upon a reputable VPN service to use. There are plenty of rogue sites that form part of the fake VPNs we mentioned in an earlier point in this post. One such example that managed to fool more than 50,000 people into downloading their software was a company called ‘Mobile Protection: Clean and Security VPN.’

If you hadn’t already noticed, there was a huge spelling error in the name of the business. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are a giveaway that the business is not serious. If they cannot be bothered to get a professional copywriter to write their content, then do you think they are really going to be as ‘security focussed’ as they claim to be?

This complete disregard for basic information that is published incorrectly is lazy, and if they are lazy with this, they are likely to be equally as lazy in other areas of their business. Not only did these guys get the name of their business incorrectly spelled, they had glaring errors all over their site.

You need to exercise caution, as this company managed to pass through Apple’s rather stringent checks allowing them to put their app in the Apple App store. So, as mentioned earlier, do not just base your decision on the reviews on Apple or Android platforms, make sure you do your research and verify the legitimacy of the business overall.

As a final note, you can always check the website uses HTTPS, rather than HTTP. This is indicated in the top left-hand corner of the same place you enter the URL for the website, as displayed below. It is usually accompanied by a secure lock symbol too.

9. Be Aware of Lifetime VPN Licences

If you see an offer for a lifetime subscription to a VPN service, then please do not purchase it, we are almost certain that this will be some form of a scam. There are many websites, including Gdgt Deals and StackSocial that each offer such promises.

To quote just one of their offers, they are offering a lifetime subscription to Windscribe VPN for just $50. Yet they claim the RRP of the product to be close to $1000. So, why would they offer such a substantial discount? As we have mentioned consistently throughout this post, if something seems too good to be true, then there is usually a catch.

In order to operate a VPN service effectively, the company needs to collect enough money to sustain their overheads and to provide a decent service to their customers.

10. Too Much Information

If you sign-up to a VPN and are asked to reveal lots of personal information, this is another red flag that you might be dealing with a fake VPN or a scam. On such example can be found with Astrill. They ask their users to register a phone number and verify your address in order to use their service. Why?

A VPN is all about keeping your private and personal information secure. So, why would they need to know your phone number and home address in order to provide you with this service? More importantly, why do the best VPNs not ask for this data, yet others do.

Do they need to know your phone number and home address in order to provide you with a better VPN service, does it actually matter to the service you receive? No. If that company’s intentions were genuine, they would not need this information.

11. Conclusion

With the rising concerns over security, it is more important than ever before to ensure you are using a VPN that can provide complete assurances with regards to your online privacy. Being aware of the potential scams that are occurring within the VPN space is an essential safeguarding exercise, and simply by reading this post, you have taken steps to help yourself remain secure online.

Written by: Elizabeth March

Advanced ITSEC Specialist Based in Cambridge, England, Elizabeth has held notable positions for a range of high-profile vendors and clients in the European IT Security and Communications Sector. As a former IT Trainer, Technical Specialist, and Product Manager; she transitioned into the role of an expert IT Copywriter in 2015. Since then, her works have been published globally, and she continues to help people easily decipher complex technical challenges and make informed decisions about their digital lives.

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