9 Common VPN Scams in 2020 and How to Avoid Them

You are not alone if you worry about VPN scams. The public's interest is increasing in Internet privacy and online security, so in short, a VPN has become a mainstream concept. Though unfortunately, there are many shady characters and even state actors often operating behind VPNs; and for your safety, it is important to be able to identify a scam when you see one before it’s late.

9 Common VPN Scams in 2020 and How to Avoid Them

The VPN market is full of scams, malware, and fake VPNs, but there are still many legitimate VPN providers available such as NordVPN, which is truly committed to protecting their users' privacy online. Making a wise decision and looking out for red flags before you decide to purchase a VPN is essential if you want to ensure your security on the web.

Different ways that VPNs try to scam users

In my experience of reviewing VPN services for quite some time, I’ve observed that there are generally 9 different ways that VPNs try to scam users. These scams run the gamut all the way from lying about their privacy policies or using deceptive language to appear more trustworthy than they really are.

Here are the 9 common types of VPN scams:

1. The false promise of a “Free VPN”

You need to remember an old saying: "Nothing is truly free in life." This line is very much relevant and valid for VPNs.

It would help if you watched out for a common scam that is related to free VPNs. Free VPNs perform opposite functions as compared to paid VPNs that are indeed reliable.

Indeed, security is never a guarantee. However, when you purchase a good VPN, there is a satisfaction that a VPN provider will never sell or distribute your private data. But when you consider the example of a free VPN like Hotspot Shield, they log in to your internet activity. Moreover, they even sell data to 3rd parties to gain from the advertisements.

Free VPNs are quite dangerous for injecting malware into your system, and they even cannot encrypt your data.

Indeed, free VPNs can also be classified as a fake VPN. There is a need to consider more for the identification of a fake VPN and separate it from a genuine VPN.

For an essential reference, "fake VPN'' is known as a VPN that is totally against privacy and security concepts.

Some of the other fake VPNs are even quite hostile. Remember that trust is an important aspect when availing of the services of a VPN. Though with fake VPNs, they can affect you with negative ads, spam emails, or even ransomware threats.

The paid VPNs provide significant transparency levels in their goals to the users. They communicate the right things to consumers.

2. Never follow the VPN Reviews on Apple & Android App Stores

It is vital for any user that they must never trust ratings and reviews on mobile app stores. The example of Betternet VPN requires consideration in this regard.

This free VPN service had more than 12.2 thousand ratings on the Apple App Store and 4.6 stars.

Though, unfortunately, for all those 12.2 thousand users who ranked Betternet, they had no idea at all that Betternet was indeed amongst the worst VPN providers out there according to a research by CSIRO.

Betternet was doing all the wrong things, such as leaking users' IP addresses, selling data to 3rd parties, not ensuring transparency on encryption, and many more shady activities.

Thus, before selecting a VPN, it is imperative to research the reputation of the provider on multiple platforms such as App Store reviews of different providers as well as social media reviews and the verdict of expert reviewers.

These can help you learn about the pros and cons of a given VPN in a fuller way since you’ll be relying on multiple different sources rather than making judgement on the legitimacy of the VPN based on the reviews from any single platform.

3. The “zero logging policy” trap

You should always remain skeptical of policy statements such as, "we do not log, collect data, or store any valuable information about the user." Unless the provider is independently audited by an organization and the VPN provider clearly specifies everything they do or do not log rather than giving an oversimplified blanket statement, there is a high probability that the VPN is lying to you.

It is unfortunate that many VPNs even claim that they do not log private information of users but still claim to do so to promote their service. The main problem for the consumers is that, in their busy schedules, they can’t realistically verify these claims and are likely to make a hasty decision based on their hunch.

Therefore, before selecting any VPN provider, even for strongly recommended ones like NordVPN, it is necessary to read the fine print of their privacy policies and terms of services. It is important to analyze any contradictory statements for no-logging policies carefully.

4. The claim of being the fastest VPN in business

We feel quite skeptical of those VPNs that deny all forms of data logging, because every provider has to collect at least some information from the user in order to deliver their service and offer tech support effectively. At the same time, we need to remain cautious for providers who claim to be the fastest VPN in the market or have the best encryption level.

Speed can vary considerably based on various factors including the base connection speed you are receiving from your ISP, the distance between you and the VPN server, the type of protocol etc. VPN providers that claim to have the fastest speed in the market are simply overlooking the fact that speed is something that’s not in their control for the most part.

So if a provider’s branding is based on claims of being the fastest without explanations of what “fast” actually means in the context of a VPN, it’s a good chance you are being lied to.

5. VPNs that have questionable pricing

It is essential to not get trapped for those scams that either require you to pay a large amount of money or an amount too small. Both extremes are potential red flags. If you feel like the pricing is suspiciously low or large, trust your gut and refrain from buying the VPN, especially if it is not that well-known.

It is also important to review the fine print in pricing because there are often grammar mistakes in the product description. This can immediately create doubt on the legitimacy of the service. After all, why would a legit provider allow grammatical mistakes in their descriptions?

An important step is to ensure the provider is genuine and then subscribe to the service only after you’re completely satisfied as to their authenticity. A lot of VPN services will provide you a monthly or an annual pay bill. A valid or legitimate VPN service can cost you between $50-100 per year.

6. VPN Websites without SSL

It is quite ironic that there are some VPN providers that don’t even use HTTPS for their own web domains. You obviously can’t expect a VPN to protect your privacy and offer security when they haven’t even bothered to set up SSL certificates to encrypt information on their website.

So if you see a VPN provider that cannot encrypt their website, any promises of anonymity and a high encryption level are likely to be false.

7. VPNs that provide “Lifetime Subscription”

Be wary of VPNs that advertise Lifetime Subscriptions on third party websites. When visiting sites like Gdgt and StackSocial, there are numerous advertisements for products containing lifetime subscriptions.

Usually, the VPN provider will provide you excellent service for the first and second months. However, when the refund date of the lifetime subscription passes, the VPN will then lower the bandwidth and speed.

Good VPNs will always charge subscription fees to recover their overhead costs, so there’s no obvious revenue stream for a provider offering lifetime subscription. As such, you have to be extremely wary of such providers because they will probably A good VPN will at least charge $49 a year.

8. VPN self-promotion and astroturfing

If you frequent places like Reddit, 4chan, and other online forums, you will run into shills that promote VPNs they are affiliated with. These people get a profit for every VPN sale they can make and they pretend to be entirely unbiased and unrelated to the VPNs they are promoting during discussions in these online communities.

Trust is an essential factor in the VPN industry. You cannot only blindly trust any user that randomly claims to have used a VPN and found it to be the best they have ever used.

So, it is wise to always cross-check whatever information you’re receiving from strangers online and read up reviews from trusted sources before believing anyone and shelling out money for any VPN.

9. VPNs that require a lot of private information

VPNs are supposed to protect user privacy, not compromise it. If a provider is asking for too much information while you’re signing up to their service, it is generally a red flag and indicates their logging policy is not too privacy-friendly.

Another valuable tip is to consider a VPN that usually accepts Bitcoin as payment for subscriptions. This helps in keeping your identity anonymous and avoid giving private information to the provider while signing up.

Final Thoughts

It is a shame that VPN providers, the very vanguards of online privacy, often take to sketchy and fraudulent practices that end up scamming the users. It is imperative for you to remain vigilant when shopping for a VPN online and do your research before you decide to invest in one. It might take a few more minutes of your time than if you just clicked on the “buy” button and started using any random VPN you came across, but if you’re careful enough, it can save you a lot of pain later.

As a general rule, you’re highly likely to be safer with well-reputed and leading VPN brands such as NordVPN because these companies survive on user trust and will do everything in their power to inspire that trust through fair practices.

Check the comment section below for additional information, share what you know, or ask a question about this article by leaving a comment below. And, to quickly find answers to your questions, use our search Search engine.

Note: Some of the information in samples on this website may have been impersonated or spoofed.

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Online Threat Alerts Security Tips

Pay the safest way

Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information

In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Be careful of the information you share

Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with

Know who you’re dealing with

Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Check your accounts

Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

Don’t believe promises of easy money

If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Do not open email from people you don’t know

If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.

Think before you click

If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.

Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond

If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.

Be careful with links and new website addresses

Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.

Secure your personal information

Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.

Stay informed on the latest cyber threats

Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are critical to online security.

Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs

Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.

Update the operating systems on your electronic devices

Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.

What if You Got Scammed?

Stop Contact With The Scammer

Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.

Secure Your Finances

  • Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:

Check Your Computer

If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.

Change Your Account Passwords

Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.

Report The Scam

Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:

  • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
  • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
  • Identitytheft.gov: If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at www.identitytheft.gov. This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.

How To Recognize a Phishing Scam

Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
  • include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real

About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)

Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.

By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.

With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.

Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.

Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).

9 Common VPN Scams in 2020 and How to Avoid Them