It takes time to discern which ones are legitimate in a market flooded with VPN providers. The constant influx of new providers raises concerns about the prevalence of VPN scams.
This article highlights common scams, provides insights, answers questions, and offers tips to help users make informed decisions.
The goal is to raise awareness about potential pitfalls and guide users in choosing reliable VPN services.
What Are The Most Common VPN Scams?
Regrettably, the VPN landscape is rife with scams. We researched to identify the most common complaints from individuals seeking to use VPNs, categorizing these issues as scams.
The culmination of this research led us to compile a list of the eight most prevalent scams.
A third-party seller occurs when a website persuades you to purchase a VPN subscription through it or when an independent merchant sells VPN subscriptions on platforms like eBay.
The challenge lies in distinguishing the legitimacy of these subscriptions and whether the VPN provider endorses such transactions.
Consider this offer, claiming a three-year NordVPN account for only $12. It appears suspicious for several reasons:
- A three-year NordVPN subscription typically costs about $3.52/month, totaling $126.86 annually. The offer suggests saving over $100 by paying only $12 once.
- The seller also promotes five-year accounts, which is unusual as NordVPN offers a maximum of three-year subscriptions, not five.
- The item description promises a NordVPN “Premium” account, despite NordVPN not having such premium distinctions—only regular NordVPN accounts.
- Further suspicion arises when clicking the “See all” link in the item description, revealing a message indicating potential scam activity.
Dead VPNs refer to discontinued VPN services whose websites remain operational despite defunct service.
EarthVPN is an illustrative example; the service has officially shut down, yet its website continues to function. The website includes all marketing content, and the checkout process remains active.
Online subscription deals can still be found through Google searches, and some review sites maintain active links to EarthVPN’s subscriptions.
Customer reviews, however, indicate that the servers are no longer functional, and support tickets need to be answered. It strongly suggests that the service silently ceased operations.
The persistence of the website, even after discontinuation, raises questions about the transparency of such dead VPNs.
Individuals who unknowingly purchase subscriptions for these dead VPNs without a genuine service risk losing their money.
No VPN service is rendered, and the lack of operational support means refund requests go unprocessed.
Additionally, the continued existence of an unsecured website poses a security risk, potentially compromising the payment details of unsuspecting users.
In addition to the scams mentioned above, VPN fraud is another deceptive practice that users should be aware of.
Fake VPNs represent fabricated services that falsely claim to provide VPN functionality, ultimately failing to deliver any such service.
These deceptive VPNs are often promoted using phishing attacks and stolen databases, creating a façade of legitimacy.
One notable case is MySafeVPN, where scammers strategically associated the “VPN” with well-known names such as Plex and Boxee to gain the trust of potential users.
This fake VPN vanished from the internet when subjected to investigation by Vice, having successfully collected funds before being exposed.
Certain scams employ more subtle tactics to generate revenue by utilizing malware. Instead of directly taking your money and disappearing, these scams expose users to ads and steal sensitive data.
This deception is prevalent, with research indicating that 38% of Android VPN apps contain malware.
While not necessarily ransomware, this malware often subjects users to potentially malicious ads and unauthorized surveillance.
Further, a security researcher uncovered that four highly popular Android VPN apps, boasting a collective 500+ million downloads, contained adware.
To validate these concerns, we conducted our investigation. Reports from VPN users suggested that VPN Proxy Master exhibited malicious behavior.
To delve deeper, we downloaded the installation files for their Windows Beta client and used VirusTotal to scan them. The results, though detecting only one malicious file, raise significant concerns.
Free VPNs, when not exposing users to malware, compromise privacy in alternative ways.
The notion of a completely “free” VPN raises questions about how such services sustain themselves, given the operational costs of maintaining servers and staff.
Free VPNs do generate revenue, but users often become the product rather than the VPN service itself. Falling victim to a free VPN can result in various privacy and security issues:
- Selling Bandwidth: Some free VPN services may sell your bandwidth, effectively adding your computer to a botnet.
- Tracking and Selling User Data: Free VPNs might employ tracking libraries to monitor your usage and data, subsequently selling this information to advertisers.
- Inadequate Encryption: Privacy may be compromised as free VPNs may not properly encrypt your data. It could be due to inadequate service configuration by developers or the VPN not employing encryption.
- Spam and Redirection: Free VPNs may subject users to spam with annoying ads, some of which might be malicious. Additionally, users may be redirected to eCommerce websites affiliated with the VPN provider.
Fake reviews are considered VPN scams as they deceive consumers into paying for a non-existent or subpar VPN service, potentially exposing them to malware. The prevalence of fake reviews on app stores is a well-known issue. Even the fictitious “Mobile protection: Clean & Security VPN” app had numerous suspicious positive reviews.
Is VPN A Scam?
While VPNs are legitimate tools for enhancing online privacy and security, the VPN market has seen the emergence of various scams and fraudulent practices.
Users should be cautious of fake VPN services, misleading claims, deceptive practices, and the “VPN update scam” that aim to exploit individuals seeking genuine VPN solutions.
Follow best practices, such as avoiding unsecured websites, verifying Privacy Policies, and relying on reputable sources for reviews.
Taking precautions can help users mitigate the risk of victimizing VPN scams and ensure a secure online experience.
The prevalence of VPN scams is a real concern in today’s expanding market. As the demand for VPN services rises, more providers will emerge, creating opportunities for scammers to exploit unsuspecting users.
However, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams by maintaining a skeptical approach and not solely relying on star ratings, advertisements, or aggressive sales tactics.
Remaining vigilant and informed about potential red flags will help safeguard your money and peace of mind.