Common VPN Scams and How to Negate Them

If you’ve recently started using a VPN on your desktop or mobile device, the statistics suggest that you’re not alone. In fact, some 44% of UK Internet users have used a VPN at some point or another, while this number is continuing to increase incrementally (but noticeably) over time.

Common VPN Scams and How to Negate Them

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Even on a fundamental level, free VPNs are likely to use outdated security protocols and lower than required encryption levels, which increases the risk of fraud and makes it easier for hackers to steal your data.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.

The lack of a concise or transparent privacy policy is also cause for concern, as is the lack of tangible contact information for the service provider (remember, there should be adequate company support for handling tech issues and resolving your usage queries).

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.

However, many VPN service providers make this claim regardless of whether it’s true or not, which is why it’s key to read a service’s T&Cs and their privacy policy to ensure that there’s some correlation between what they’re promising and precisely what they intend to deliver.

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.

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.
  • 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).

Common VPN Scams and How to Negate Them