With so many different VPNs on the market, it can be tricky to choose the best one for you. It can be even more daunting knowing that not all VPNs have your best interests in mind. Untrustworthy or even malicious VPNs can be capitalizing on users by selling their data or stealing bandwidth. On the other hand, less reputable VPNs may be jeopardizing their user’s privacy and online safety by taking security shortcuts. 

It’s important to be fully aware of any potential red flags that a VPN might display before opening your wallet. After all, you don’t want to fall into any traps that can put you at risk. We want to help make sure you make the right decision and don’t end up paying for a VPN that doesn’t deliver exactly what you signed up for.

So, here are what we deem are red flags to look out for when choosing a VPN.

Become a VPN expert by checking our our useful VPN features guide and discover answers to common VPN questions in 2022!

Try out NordVPN* now!

VPN Red Flags

Take a look at a few red flags you should look out for when choosing a VPN –

  • Free — A free VPN may seem appealing, but remember, nothing is really free. Free VPNs need to make money somehow, and if you’re not paying for a product — then you are the product. If a VPN isn’t bombarding you with ads, then they’re likely to be selling your data, which is a huge privacy risk. You could think you’re getting a bargain by signing up to a free VPN but before you know it, your data is being bargained away to malicious third parties. Even worse, there‘s evidence that up to 75% of free VPNs embed third-party trackers in their software.

You should be aware that free VPN servers are much less reliable than premium providers. You probably won’t have many servers to choose from and even those that are available will likely be overloaded with users which then drastically slows down connection speeds. Most free VPNs also have unreasonable caps on their bandwidth, with many providing users with a mere 500 MB per month.

All in all, free VPNs may seem ideal if you’re on a budget, but really they’re likely to do more harm than good. It’s not worth saving a bit of money each month on a free VPN if it means you’re compromising your privacy and security. Premium VPNs are often very reasonably priced and it means you can guarantee that you’re not at risk of malware, intrusive ads, and privacy concerns.

  • Weak Encryption — If a VPN provider doesn’t have AES-256 encryption or better, then you should run the other way. AES-256 encryption, otherwise known as ‘military-grade encryption’, is virtually impossible to crack and can protect you from prying eyes such as your ISP, cybercriminals, and even the government. AES-256 encryption is the industry standard and users should expect nothing less from a VPN.  
  • Slow Speeds — It’s no secret that all VPNs, even the good ones, slow down connection speeds. This is due to the data needing to be encrypted and decrypted, along with travelling further to a server. Although there will be a slightly noticeable drop in speed when using a VPN, it shouldn’t be interrupting your day-to-day online activities. You should also still be able to stream in high quality without experiencing any lag or buffering, even when using a VPN. Some VPNs may have fewer servers available which can also impact speeds further, but as mentioned before, this is mostly an occurrence with free VPNs rather than premium ones. 

However, if you’re noticing a drastic drop in speed, or have read reviews complaining about suspiciously slow speeds with a certain VPN, then they could be stealing user bandwidth. Shady VPN providers can (almost) secretly aggregate users’ bandwidth and sell it off to the highest bidders. This can be disastrous for users because if someone uses your bandwidth to participate in any illegal activities, then you can be held responsible for those actions and have to face the legal consequences. 

  • Lack Of No-Logs Policy — Before choosing a VPN, you should have a good look at their privacy policy. It’s impossible for a VPN to not take any data as they’ll need information such as your email address and credit card details in order to manage your subscription and bill you. However, reputable VPNs all adopt a no-logs policy which states that under no circumstances will they collect or log any information from you that’s not 100% necessary. 

Remember to always check out a VPNs privacy policy before paying so you know exactly what data they collect from users. And if they don’t have a no-logs policy, then they’re likely selling user data to third parties. Alternatively, a VPN may be ordered to pass on user data to the government or police, which can be a serious privacy risk for users. But, if a VPN has no user data stored, then they have nothing to hand over. That’s why opting for a VPN with a strict no-logs policy is so important.  

  • No Money-Back Guarantee — If a VPN provider is confident about their product’s quality then they won’t hesitate to offer users either a free trial or a money-back guarantee. If they don’t offer either, then it’s probably best to avoid them altogether. VPNs may not offer a money-back guarantee if they think users are likely to request a refund after using the product for a few weeks, which clearly isn’t a good sign. 

A money-back guarantee and a clearly outlined refund policy are must-haves. No matter how many reviews you read about a VPN, you’ll never truly know if it’s a good fit for you unless you try it out yourself. You can ensure that the VPN provider is honest about their server speeds, security protocols, and other features before committing to a year-long (or more) subscription. 

Most reputable VPNs on the market have at least 30 days money-back guarantee with no or little questions asked.

To Conclude… 

VPNs are fantastic tools for increasing your security and protecting your privacy online, among other great bonuses. However, not all VPNs are created equal, and some may be out to sell your data, steal your bandwidth, or inject malware into your devices. Other VPNs may just be cutting corners in order to reduce costs, leading to subpar security protocols and weak encryption. Your online security and privacy are incredibly important and should never be overlooked. By recognizing VPN red flags, you can make the right choice and select a VPN that’s going to respect your privacy and deliver every feature they promise, including strong encryption and fast connection speeds.

Try out NordVPN* now!