Virtual private networks (VPNs) are great—if you use a legitimate service. VPNs add an extra layer of security to your Internet browsing by encrypting your data and masking your IP address so you can surf the Web anonymously. Plus, this extra security comes at a low monthly fee (or a one-time fee if you only need it when traveling).
6 quick tips to spot a Fake VPN service
However, new scams are always cropping up and taking advantage of individuals seeking privacy and security. Don’t fall for these fake VPN providers. Start by verifying the service with the following tips.
1. Read the About Page
Start by taking a look around the service providers’ about page. How long have they been in business? What type of language do they use to describe their service? If their offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid VPNs that use unsubstantiated claims like “fastest,” “most secure,” and “most private.”
2. Test Their Customer Support
A legitimate VPN service will provide plenty of opportunities to contact support because they care about their customers. Look through their website for support, such as a phone number, contact email, live chat, FAQs page, and community forum. Some might even feature a Twitter support page.
Don’t be afraid to test their support options to see how fast they respond—if they respond. Be wary of support that seems not to be coming from a natural person. You’ll want to proceed cautiously if all you receive is a form response.
3. Check Their Social Media Presence
The lack of a social media presence should raise a big red flag. Search the provider’s website for links to a Twitter or Facebook page. Scroll through their profile to see when their page launched. It’s never a good sign if their page only launched in the last week.
Be sure to check how often they post and whether or not they respond to comments or Tweets. If you don’t see real customers interacting or they are interacting but getting no response, you may want to move on and research a different VPN service.
4. Research Online Reviews
Online reviews will tell you a lot about the legitimacy of a VPN service provider. Start with a simple Google search, then explore multiple review sites to see what people say about the service. Always look beyond the company’s website since it’s easy to fabricate those reviews.
Not only will you be looking for information about other people’s experiences, but you’ll want to pay attention to how far back the reviews go. If the only reviews you find have been posted within the last month, it’s a good indication that the service is brand new—and perhaps untrustworthy.
Be wary of services that only seem to have good reviews written about them. These may be fake reviews designed to make the company look legit.
5. Check Their Logging Policies
If you run across a VPN that keeps your data log, keep running! This essentially defeats the purpose of a VPN because if they’re tracking and storing information about the sites you’ve visited and files you’ve downloaded, your browsing is no longer private or anonymous.
That said, most VPNs like HideMyAss! Keep a log of some data, such as the connection duration or bandwidth used. That type of logging makes it so they can improve their service.
However, your VPN provider shouldn’t log information beyond that, such as the websites you visit or the IP addresses. If you can’t find information on their website that mentions the company’s log policy, check out this list of over 100 VPNs that don’t keep logs.
6. Review Their Pricing Structure
If you want to enjoy the security benefits that virtual private networks offer, expect to pay a fee for it. Usually, it’s a small monthly subscription fee, but you should never rely on free VPN services to keep your data safe. These free services are likely stealing and selling your data to third parties or redirecting you to their partner sites to profit off the sales commission.
Like free VPNs, lifetime VPN subscriptions shouldn’t be trusted. These “lifetime subscriptions” usually don’t last long—maybe a year or two. Second, it’s an unstable business model. VPNs constantly need to bring in revenue to provide proper ongoing support and security.
That comes through monthly subscriptions. On the other hand, Lifetime subscriptions would rely solely on attracting new customers. So, what happens when the influx of customers drops? The cheap VPN service turns to sell your data to third parties and advertisers the same way sketchy-free services do.
These services might provide some of the features you’re looking for rather than simply taking your money and running. However, a free or “lifetime subscription” service is best to avoid compromised data risks.
Also, keep an eye out for a refund policy. Most legitimate VPNs will offer a money-back guarantee between seven to 30 days so that you can test out the service risk-free.
Choosing the right VPN is essential to keep your information private online. The tips mentioned above will help you avoid fake VPNs looking to take advantage of you.
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