Should You Use a VPN?

As organizations increasingly see that work-from-home is here to stay, they’re putting in place the necessary tools and resources for their employees to work remotely. Many businesses of all sizes are putting significant resources into transitioning to the remote work environment.

Should You Use a VPN?

One thing your employer might require if you’re going to work from home in any capacity is a virtual private network or VPN.

If you don’t have to use a VPN, should you be anyway? This is something many people are asking themselves. A VPN can keep your online activities private and away from the prying eyes of third parties.

The following are some things to know about using a VPN in a personal or work capacity.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network or VPN is a tool to help secure data and protect your privacy online.

A VPN will hide your IP address and physical location. At the same time, VPNs also encrypt internet traffic, so no one knows who you are or where you are. A VPN uses encryption protocols, funneling all of your internet traffic through a virtual private network.

If you don’t use a VPN, all your online traffic is exposed to your internet service provider, other people on your network, advertisers and the government.

If someone were to look at your VPN connection, they would see scrambled data.

Specific things a VPN can achieve include:

  • Securing your data when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network
  • Overcoming content blocks based on location
  • Helping you access otherwise blocked websites
  • Overcoming online censorship
  • Preventing price discrimination
  • Prevention of ISP tracking

We’ll go into some of these benefits more below as we talk about why you should consider using a VPN, even when your work or employer doesn’t require it.

Using a VPN At Home

You may not need a VPN if you only log onto the internet at home. When you are using your home Wi-Fi network, you can protect it with a password. Then, you don’t necessarily need the added security of a VPN unless you prefer it.

Even if your network is password protected and that’s all you use, you might still want a VPN if you want to keep your internet activities private from your internet service provider.

You should note that typically when you buy a new Wi-Fi router, it will have a default password. Those passwords are easy to find online, so make sure you change yours to something unique and complex.

If you’re using a VPN at home, it can cause speed issues. If you already have a slow internet connection, this can in and of itself be a reason you might not use one at home.

If you regularly use public Wi-Fi, then you should very likely be using a VPN. Anyone can get onto an unsecured Wi-Fi network, and a hacker can easily sit on one and intercept all the traffic coming across from it.

For example, if you went to work in a coffee shop and then logged onto your bank account to check your balance while you were there, a hacker could get your login credentials. The risks that come with public Wi-Fi are essentially endless.

If you use a VPN when you’re on public Wi-Fi, your connection is encrypted so no one can access your data.

While you may not have to worry as much when you’re at home about privacy, Congress does let ISPs sell data about users and online activities to interested parties. Supposedly the information is made anonymous, but some people are still uncomfortable with it.

A VPN makes it more difficult to link any of your online traffic back to you.

Can You Still Be Tracked When You Use a VPN?

Some people have concerns they can still be tracked when using a VPN, so what should you know about that?

If you pay for a VPN using a credit card, the provider will know who you are. You’re also connecting from your device, so in that sense, the VPN company will also have your IP address. However, that should be the extent of it. VPNs don’t monitor online activity.

The answer to whether or not you need a VPN ultimately comes down to your preferences. If you feel like you’d get frustrated with reduced internet speeds or having to log into it, then it’s probably not worthwhile.

If you do have serious concerns about your data being sold or you do a lot of work from home, you might opt for a VPN.

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.

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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.
  • 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 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).

Should You Use a VPN?