As VPNs become more widely used, however, we’re also seeing an increase in the number of rogue operators and VPN service providers.
This has created a number of common VPN scams. We’ll explore these in more detail below, while asking how you can overcome them.
#1. Free VPNs
There’s an old adage which suggests that some things are too good to be true, and this is arguably the case when it comes to virtual private networks (VPNs).
Although such clients aren’t necessarily dangerous or fraudulent in nature, many are not particularly transparent and likely to harbor ulterior motives for creating a free VPN service.
For example, although their business model is designed to deliver a free VPN at the point of use, operators have to derive a source of revenue from somewhere. Unfortunately, the most valuable asset such operators have is your personal data, and they may well look to monetize this by selling it to interested third parties.
They may also cap their base service and introduce an improved, tiered subscription model, but the issue here is that the free VPN is completely unfit for purpose and leaves you with little choice but to upgrade.
Even on a fundamental level, free VPNs are likely to use outdated security protocols and lower than required encryption levels, which increases the risk of fraud and makes it easier for hackers to steal your data.
#2. Fake VPNs
If you understand the answer to the question “what is a VPN?”, you’ll know that this technology is designed to create a secure connection between your device and managed, remote servers.
While free VPN clients can fall short of achieving this goal, there are also ‘fake’ clients that are little more than rogue services that pose as legitimate services in order to steal your data and financial information.
Of course, such clients are meticulously crafted to deter you from recognising their true intent, but the good news is that there are several signs that may be indicative of a fake VPN.
For example, if the service is owned by a recently established corporation with no history in the VPN market, this represents a genuine red flag.
During usage, you should keep an eye on the IP address ascribed to your device. If you note that the VPN always assigns you the same IP address regardless of which device you’re using, you may be dealing with a rogue operator.
On a final note, keep your eyes peeled for performance. VPNs that are constantly malfunctioning and leaking data could be unsupported by the necessary fundamentals, and may mean that the client is completely fraudulent.
#3. Fake Zero-Logging Policies
Most (if not all) VPN clients market themselves as operating zero-logging policies, which means that they don’t track your activity and create a valuable dataset that can subsequently be monetized by the client.
In some cases, this may be slightly annoying rather than harmful or outright fraudulent, but you should note that providers based in 5, 9 or 14-Eyes Alliance countries (including Germany and Spain) are subject to regulations that may compel them to hand out your data if requested.
As this information can broadly be used to identify users and track their real-time, physical location, it may render the VPN virtually useless and put your data in the hands of state authorities.
Remember, some rogue operators will promise to adopt a zero-logging policy as a way of incentivizing your patronage, only to gather and monetize your data and potentially put both your online safety (and privacy) at risk.