Free stuff is great! There is a wide array of tools, games, applications, and content available online that you can easily download without having to spend a penny. In fact, some of the most popular sites online are free for users, including the world’s most popular search engine Google and the social networking platform, Facebook. To generate revenue, these sites rely on advertisers to pay them money to advertise their products, so the user doesn't have to spend any of their hard-earned cash to enjoy the service.
However, other websites and applications can’t rely on advertisers to keep it going. Although some services online might appear completely free, there are often hidden charges or constant advertisements like pop-ups and banners. Some of these services can put your device and the data stored on your device at risk.
It seems like there are plenty of VPN services available online. Some promote a free service, claiming they are just as good as paid versions, and others need customers to pay a monthly or annual fee to customers to get a highly sophisticated and safe VPN service. The average internet user might find this a bit overwhelming, so in this article, we will help you determine what service is best for you.
Do I Need a VPN?
If you are connecting to the internet, whether you are using a smart device or a computer, running a VPN will help boost your security. Cyber attacks are more common than you might think, as you are more likely to become a victim of a cyberattack than you are to be involved in a road accident or having your vehicle stolen. A VPN service from a reputable company along with a quilty antivirus and anti-malware package installed will help reduce the chances of your device getting hacked.
A VPN will mask your original IP address and replace it with a new unique address. A quilty VPN service will ensure its clients that both inbound and outbound traffic will be safely encrypted.
Often people make the mistake and assume a VPN service is just for computers, however, reports show there has been a huge increase in mobile cyberattacks. If you connect your mobile device to a public network, you should consider running a VPN as hackers can easily gain access.
What are the Problems with Free VPNs?
Choosing which vpn is best for you can cause a bit of a headache. It might feel that some free VPN services are too good to be true. At the end of the day, a VPN service is an expensive business to run, so why on earth would they give it to you for free? Plus, how do they generate revenue?
Unfortunately, most of these services are too good to be true. Here are some of the problems you might come across when running a free VPN service:
- Free VPNs tend to be slow: If you have opted for a free VPN service, you will probably notice everything online has started to slow down. Unfortunately, most of these services don’t offer users much bandwidth.
- Limited amount of servers to choose from: One of the best things about running a VPN service from a reputable company is that it seems that they have a server located in every major city on the planet. In most free VPNs, you don’t have a lot of options.
- Low security: Some free VPNs can increase the risk of you becoming a victim of a cyberattack. A few years ago, VPN protocols were deprecated and replaced by new protocols. It seemed that every reputable VPN service updated their services, however many free VPNs failed to make the changes that have seen an increase in cybercrime.
- Advertising: Some of these free packages often use annoying advertisements that seem to constantly appear when using a free VPN service.
Although some VPN services are not completely free, many top-quality packages will offer users a free trial. This allows potential customers to try the product before they commit to paying a monthly or annual fee for the full package.
There are times in life that it is ideal to save money, but when it comes to data security, it is probably worth your while putting your hand into your pocket. Cyberattacks have become very common in recent history, and if you were to lose your data that is stored on your computer, you might have your identity, your bank details, private family and work pictures, and documents stolen. Hackers are constantly on the lookout for people using their genuine IP address so they can easily gain access to their devices.
Remember, although running a VPN service, even if it is known to be the best VPN service in the world, you are still not 100% safe when connected to a network.
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).