What to watch out for in a VPN provider

SharkIt can be said for VPN providers as it can be said for any industry that there is always going to be good players and bad players. It is rather easy to set up a VPN provider with a small amount of funding and build as the customer base grows. With details emerging over the past few years regarding user privacy and security online coupled with the increasing restrictions put upon users in both the developed and developing worlds it has lead to a mass explosion of businesses and one man bands setting up shop and opening VPN services.

There are hundreds of uses of a VPN service and every user is different but there are some important key areas that regardless of your requirement of a VPN provider you must be aware of to ensure that not only is the company you’re parting with your hard earned cash legitimate but further to this will guarantee your online security and privacy and not just make these claims.

Physical Contact Details

Any registered legitimate business be it in the VPN industry or any online business should at some location display either a physical office or mailbox address. A first warning sign would be if you can’t find any details on the actual location of the provider. Some VPN services are run by a parent company as a side business and if you can’t find the physical address on the VPN site look for a link to a parent company website and make sure there are physical details listed there. Many VPN providers like a lot of online only businesses may be registered in more exotic locations such as Hong Kong, Switzerland, Seychelles etc.

There are many different reasons why a VPN provider will choose to locate in locations such as those and it should not be seen as a dishonest practise. In many cases the reason is entirely legitimate and is most likely to be to locate the service in a country or jurisdiction that has strong privacy laws such as Hong Kong. There will be other reasons such as tax advantages and the ease of processing a worldwide customer base. However one area to be wary of from fairly new providers is if they suddenly shut up shop and are registered in a far flung location it is likely that if you had remaining subscription time you would need to chase that up in the jurisdiction the business is registered in or ideally use a payment service that may be able to recover some of the funds on your behalf.

Paypal does not cover services or intangible items

One area that many users are unaware of is when paying with a system like Paypal you are not covered for services or intangible items. This means unless you receive a physical product through the mail with a way of tracking the item then you are not covered if something goes wrong or you realise the service is not what you had hoped. There are tons of honest VPN providers such as those listed on our VPN Comparison Table but you should be aware of those who either don’t have any refund policy or look to choose a one month service or trial first to ensure the service lives up to what you expect. Getting your money back from a dishonest provider because you assumed Paypal would cover you could be a painstaking process that may not end in your favour. Similar consideration should be given to transaction systems such as Bitcoin as once the money has left your wallet there is no way to have it returned without the provider agreeing to refund you.

No Negative Reviews

The VPN industry is a tough business and as more providers appear every company will be attempting to up their game to appeal to the widest possible audience. Bad providers will use underhand tactics to increase their appeal and one of the best ways to do this would be to post as random users on various websites over stating the glorious service that they have received.

The best VPN providers will have a lot of good genuine reviews but like anything there will always be those one or two people who for whatever reason won’t be happy with the service and as we all know, people are quicker to leave a review when they have a negative experience than a positive one. However underhand providers may also write poor reviews of their competitors so be sure to read negative reviews carefully to ensure they contain actual real grievances such as “not enough servers” or “bad customer support by Fred Jones” rather than generic reports such as “bad service” – Real negative reviews tend to be longer and detail what was wrong with the service while non-genuine ones are shorter and don’t go in to detail about what the issue was that was wrong with the service.

Be wary of VPN review sites that have no negative provider reviews and point out no disadvantages found at the service. Any website that scores 95%+ for every provider will be being paid for the review and is one reason why we introduced our own extensive full disclosure system which we are extremely proud to stand by. Although we have reviewed some extremely good providers we have also reviewed some that didn’t live up to the standard expected and even the extremely good ones always had areas that could be improved upon.

No or thin policies

VPN providers provide a unique service that can require them to remove troublesome users. Any good provider will have extensive or clear and concise policies which should include at least a Privacy Policy and some kind of Terms of Service or User Agreement. It is critical that you read these thoroughly as there have been many occasions when users have expected to be able to carry out a certain task while connected to the service only to find their account suspended without refund for violating a term that was clearly laid out when you signed up.

We’ve all signed up to websites and just ticked any box that has a link with terms to read but for your own security and privacy you should treat signing up to a VPN service like you would any major purchase in your life, like getting a mortgage or buying a car. If you don’t read the Terms of Service you could be allowing the provider to even sell your browsing history or details so it is critical for you to read these.

For services to continue they must have policies in place, without these it would be impossible for them to weed out bad users which in turn would most likely lead to the service imploding at some point as it would attract far too many unscrupulous customers. Any provider that does not have clear policies or none at all should be avoided completely.

I hope you’ve found this article useful and if you have any suggestions, tips or things you personally look out for then I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

Image courtesy of vectorolie / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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