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Free VPNs are Bad Ideas: Here's How to Choose the Best VPN

July 4, 2019
6 mins
Woman casually working from her bedroom in modern condo

Free VPNs sound like a good idea if you have an internet security service that is offering free protection. They might say something like, “Your IP address can be seen by millions” or “You live in Ontario”. That’s because their free virtual private network (VPN) trial will result in an add-on service for an extra fee. Before you assume every VPN is safe (they’re not), here are a few ways to choose VPNs and which are the safest and most affordable.

What is a VPN?

VPNs are virtual private networks. They let you create secure connections to other networks over the internet. When you select a VPN, you go online anonymously through an anonymous server, not your own.

One reason VPNs are so popular is you can get geo-restricted content anywhere in the world. There are no limitations based on your ISP or your country of origin to stop you.

People often use VPNs if they have a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) connection through their phones. VPNs let them get access to information across the web that’s unrestricted. Hence, you might hear about a country blocking VPNs because they don’t want residents to have “free news” that’s not censored by their government.

You're Not as Private as You Think When You Go Online

Picture it. You're holiday shopping online for your family and you want to surprise them with a cruise vacation. You pick out cruise travel insurance and start looking at amenities. No one will know, right? But, because you're on a shared server with the same ISP, your family gets ad pop-ups about the cruise or hotel on their computers and tablets. That's because your ISP is storing the sites you visit to market more products to you (and your family, oops!).

To avoid this, use a VPN. You can get online and can't be tracked. And, if you use the internet at work, a VPN is also helpful. Businesses can track every site you visit and see what you're sharing on social media.

Who Uses VPNs? And, What Can You Access?

Some people are suspicious of VPNs because it's new technology. But, VPNs are commonly used by businesses, travellers and consumers for various reasons.

These include:

VPNs are used to watch content in other countries online.

YouTube is one site that people like to visit because it includes a lot of free content not accessible in other countries.

VPNs are used to protect your identity on public wifi.

If you're in a public location like a coffee internet bar, airport or hotel lobby, a VPN can keep your information private. Many business people use VPNs so they can access their workplace website remotely. They might use their hotel or airport wifi. But, they'll get online through their personal VPN for privacy and encrypted security.

VPNs are used to stop internet service providers (ISPs) from tracking you and storing your data.

Google, Bing, Opera, IE, Firefox, Vivaldi. These might all track data and some have settings that can't be bypassed. While you can turn ad trackers off, VPNs ensure your connection-monitoring is always off.

VPNs are used for streaming content.

Want to see Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu? Try a high-speed VPN that offers faster internet speeds than your work VPN.

VPNs are used to block a person’s true location.

Businesses like some marketing companies use VPNs to hide their location in other countries. And, they'll use VoIP phones with local phone numbers so potential customers answer their calls (thinking its a local number).

VPNs are also used by bad people for illegal activities.

People sometimes use VPNs to torrent illegal content online. Meaning, they might download illegal movies over the internet. Or, they might use VPNs to order items online they don’t want tracked to their location. But, law enforcement and government agencies are able to track VPNs in some of these cases.

How VPNs Reduce Hacking Incidents

Hackers use what’s called a “man-in-the-middle” attack. Meaning, they mimic a server. When you get online with public wifi, your computer thinks it's communicating directly with another business. But, the hacker sits in the middle and can gather your personal data if you make transactions online.

VPNs are used to stop prying eyes from tracking your user history and viewing the sites you were on. VPNs were originally designed to connect business networks with each other. But, as more third-party trackers and hackers try to access your data, VPNs offer protection. VPNs connect to smartphones, PCs and tablets through servers (even in other countries). They are a way to stay anonymous online. VPNs forward your network traffic to a network anonymously. This allows you to bypass any internet censorship or restrictions.

The best VPNs use 256-bit AES encryption or military-grade encryption. This means your personal data when you go online goes through an encrypted tunnel. It looks like gibberish to anyone that comes across it.

Best Ways to Stay Safe Online

To help you protect your identity online, stay safe with the following tips:

  • When you sign up for home insurance, ensure it includes identity theft protection for your smartphone and other mobile devices.
  • Reset your router password every few months. Ensure you change it from the default which is user ID: admin, password: admin.
  • If you're using VPNs, use them with all your electronic devices, smart devices, gaming devices and children's toys. This can reduce hacking incidents.
  • Set your internet security protection's wifi feature at home to "home" and not "public". This makes your security protection scan all devices on your network including gaming and streaming devices (Roku, PS4 Xbox, Apple TV).
  • Never use public wifi at coffee shops, airports, schools or hotels without a VPN. Why? All of your information can be tracked online and hackers might try to spoof you with fake websites.
  • Never open attachments from emails or open emails from people you don't know. Phishing incidents make email messages look like they're from legitimate companies. Set your internet security to include coverage for your emails and online shopping.
  • Ensure you update all software on your computer and phones. And, use the best internet virus protection. Try Norton, Avast or ESET. Other options include AVG, Bit Defender, McAfee or MalwareBytes.

VPN Benefits

VPNs have several benefits that make them quite resourceful.

These include:

  • You can hide your identity online and you can’t be tracked.
  • You can hop on private sites without anyone knowing. VPNs offer the best encryption and security.
  • You can find a VPN that specializes in high-speed connections. A VPN can help with streaming content or downloading torrents in P2P connections.

Why Free VPNs are Bad

The downside with free VPNs is that the company offering the free VPN might secretly track the sites you visit. They may sell your data to a third-party company. Hence, their “free” VPN is really giving your location and identity away. Furthermore, not every free VPN has the best service even if it doesn’t sell your data to a third-party.

Free VPNs might have fewer servers or slower connections with more traffic because they’re free. It’s one of the reasons it’s important to select a VPN from a larger company. It will have more security, better features and more servers with less traffic and faster connections.

Final Thoughts

Free VPNs are free for a reason. They might secretly sell your data. To protect yourself online, use a trusted VPN like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost or NordVPN. That way you're safe online wherever you go. And, to stay safe and protect your identity, sign up for home insurance that includes identity protection. For help with home insurance or if you have questions, contact

With, you can compare the best home insurers Canada has to offer. Compare home insurance rates.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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