Best VPNs for Online Shopping

Online ShoppingSo, it is that time of year again.  The holidays are here and you are beginning to look for presents for colleagues, family, and friends.  You notice that some of your decorations are broken and maybe you need a new tree.  Are you dreading the headache of the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the early times that you need to arrive to get the best deals, the overcrowded stores, and the rude people that the holiday deals always seem to bring out?  If you are like most of us today, you are probably aware of the convenience offered by shopping online.  Many of you want to take advantage of the specials and deals that are available and forgo as much of the holiday chaos as possible.  Shopping online is becoming more popular as consumers realize that they can often get the same and sometimes even better deals without all the headaches associated with brick and mortar stores.   Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service will help you to have a safe, happy online shopping experience.  Below, you will find our list of the best VPNs for shopping online.

60% Off
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
38% Off
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
35% Off
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
25% Off
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
52% Off
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site

Shopping online carries with it some other worries.  Chief among these is how can you assure that all of your personal and credit card information remain secure while shopping at your favorite websites.  This is a real concern for most people while shopping online.  The number of people who have had to deal with the theft of their identity has been increasing from year-to-year.  According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft has accounted for the most consumer complaints for the past 15 years and is consistently the top complaint overall.  This past year, 2014, there were over 332,646 reports of identity theft to the FTC in the US alone.  What is more, a 2015 Javelin Strategy and Research report found that 12.7 million people in the US were victims of identity fraud in 2014.

What Is Identity Fraud and Identity Theft?

Although the terms identity fraud and identity theft are often used interchangeably, their are some important distinctions between the two.

  • Identity fraud is defined as the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to obtain illicit financial gain.
    • Examples include using a stolen credit account, making an unauthorized purchase, taking control of existing accounts.
  • Identity theft is defined as when someone uses your personal information without your permission.
    • An example of this is if someone found your name and social security number and used this personal information to open a credit card account in your name without your knowledge.

But to be honest if you are a victim of either of these, you probably will not care about the distinction as you will have to deal with the fallout in either case.  It can often take several months or longer before you even discover that you have been a victim of identity theft.  Most of the time this means the damage has already been done before the police even start their investigation and you can start the process to get your identity back.  It could take you months to fix your financial or credit history if someone misuses your accounts or personal information for their own financial gain.  Your best solution for fixing identity theft is to not allow yourself to become a victim. The best way you can do this is to use a personal VPN service when shopping online.

Who is at risk of Online Identity Theft and From Where?

So where do these hackers come from?  Russia is considered the main source of identity theft.  This is because the Russian economy has faltered and left thousands of well educated software engineers and programmers unemployed.  Many have, out of necessity, turned to illegal activities in order that they and their families can survive.  The opportunistic Russian mob has welcomed them and provided them with the equipment that they need to hack and harvest peoples personally identifiable information (PII) from the Internet.  The mob is reaping the benefits of their illegal hacking activities through the black-market sale of this information.  This has made Russia the world’s largest supplier of fraudulent credit card numbers and other PII.

The 11 countries with the most cases of identity theft (in ascending percentage of identity theft) include:  Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, the UK, China, the UAE, India, United States of America, Mexico.    These countries vary from very wealthy to relatively poor so on first look, it does not seen as if they have a lot in common.   The one thing that they do have in common is they all have strong or growing economies and large numbers of citizens who shop online.   Unfortunately, many online shoppers often are not as cautious as they should be and leave enough personal information to allow hackers to steal their identities.  These are the most at risk online shoppers of identity theft.  The easiest way to minimize your risk of identity theft is to do all of your online shopping through a reputable VPN service.

What Is a VPN and How Can You Benefit By Using One While Shopping Online

VPNs have been around for many years.  The have been used by businesses to connect remote offices and have allowed employees to have remote access to company resources without fear of vital corporate proprietary information being compromised or intercepted by a third party.  A VPN is a collection of computers and other devices that can be connected using a secure SSL tunnel.  All information between devices connected to the VPN is encrypted before being transited through the secure tunnel to its destination device.  In this way, the information can be passed over a less secure network like the open Internet.  This allows businesses to leverage the Internet as an addition to their internal private networks thus reducing cost of maintaining remote offices.

A personal VPN service borrows some of the functionality of the original VPN idea and adds features that make it more useful for individuals.   It creates a secure tunnel between your device and a server on its network using one of the approved secure tunneling protocols like SSL.  It then encrypts all traffic sent through this tunnel from your device to the server and vice-versa.  Then it masks you public IP address and replaces it with one from its server location.  All requests to the open Internet are then handled through this virtual IP address so your true location is never revealed to others on the Internet.

Using a VPN gives you two main technical advantages.  First since all information is encrypted and passed through a secure tunnel, no one else on the Internet can intercept the message or see any part of it.  This means that even those using deep packet inspection will not be able to read your private information.  Secondly, since all others on the Internet see is the virtual IP address given to you from the VPN service, changing VPN servers to ones in different countries allows you to virtually change your location to that country.

These advantages are both useful for online shoppers.  First because all of your Internet traffic is encrypted when transiting the Internet, no one will be able to intercept any of your credit card information or other PII while you are filling in payment and delivery information when you are shopping online.  Also being able to set your location virtually to other countries will allow you to buy online merchandise as if you are from the country you are shopping in.  Oftentimes, this will let you find a better price for your online purchases, because many merchants offer discounts to those shoppers from larger markets like those in the US and Europe.  This will also let you bypass taxes being imposed in many regions for local in-country purchases made online.  This is especially true of online digital media in Australia and some countries in Europe.

Criteria for Choosing a VPN for Online Shopping

A few of the things that you should consider when looking for a VPN to shop online with are:

  • First is do you trust the VPN provider with your confidential information?  This should be most important to you if your main goal is to protect your personal information online.
    • How much of your personal information do they require?
    • Do they have a transparent policy regarding who has access to this information and how it is used?
    • Do they have a good industry reputation?
  • Second, where does it have sever locations?
    • Chose a VPN with server locations across the world, on all of the major continents.
    • In addition to this, having multiple server locations in major shopping markets like the US, Europe, and Asia will help ensure the best possible reliability and speed if one or more servers is near capacity.  This will improve your online shopping experience.
  • Third, what kind of logging policy does the VPN have regarding VPN usage?
    • A no-log policy is ideal.
    • If they do log, is their logging policy well defined and transparent?
  • Fourth, how does the VPN perform when you are using it?
    • How fast is the VPN service?
  • Fifth, how reliable is the network?
    • You want to choose a VPN which is stable and has limited problems with reconnects.
    • This will limit having to start over when filling in billing information at websites that you shop at.
    • Do they offer a kill switch to protect your privacy if the VPN drops?  This will keep others from seeing your real location if the VPN drops connection while you are shopping.
  • Sixth, is the bandwidth
    • Unlimited data download is best even if you do not really need it to shop.
  • Seventh, is it compatible with desktops, phones, tablets or other devices you might want to use with it?
    • Does it support Windows?  Mac OS?  Linux?  iOS?  Android?  Others like Blackberry?
    • How many simultaneous connections does it allow?  More is better.
    • You should thoroughly test the VPN with all of your devices to make sure that they all work as you expect.
  • Eighth, is it secure and private to protect your traffic from prying eyes: be local Wi-Fi bandits or international cyber criminals?  This should be a primary concern when you are shopping online.  Always make sure that you have a secure connection when typing in credit card and other personally identifiable information.
    • What kind of protocols does the VPN use? (Protocols are rules for transmitting data).  A VPN service that supports all three protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP is best.
      • OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) (Best mix of security and speed)
        • It is highly configurable, fast, and secure.
        • It also supports port forwarding to increase its utility and help scale firewalls
        • This should be your first choice of VPN connection if it is available for all of your online shopping.
      • L2TP/IPsec – Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol / Internet Protocol Security is the encryption protocol for traffic.
        • It provides excellent security and is a good choice for shopping using your mobile phone.
        • It has slower performance than that of OpenVPN due to double encapsulation of data.
        • It has built-in support on most devices which makes it easy to implement.
        • It has greater utility if port forwarding is supported.
      • PPTP – Point to Point Tunneling Protocol
        • It is considered the least secure and probably better suited for devices that do not support other protocols or where speed is the main concern.
        • It is built into the most devices and like L2TP is very easy to setup.
      • Encryption is usually AES or Blowfish based.
        • The VPN should use at least 128 bit which is not as secure but provides faster speed.
        • If it supports 256 bit then it is more secure at the expense of some speed.
      • Other protocols include proprietary stealth ones to scale local firewalls or Great Firewall of China, SSTP which is primarily for Windows, and IKEv2 which provides for automatic reconnection for mobile devices.
        • IKEv2 is an excellent choice to shop using mobile devices if it is available.
        • Look for these if you have the need one to be able to get to your shopping destination.
  • Ninth, how easy is the VPN to actually use?
    • Does the VPN have easy to use, auto installation clients or well written guides?
    • Do they make it easy to connect to and change VPN servers?
  • Tenth, How much does the service cost?
    • Cost is important so you should spend what your budget can afford.
    • Trust, security and performance should be weighed against cost when choosing a VPN service for shopping since your goal is to keep your identity safe at all cost.
    • Does it support crypto currencies like Bitcoin or other anonymous ways to pay for the service?
    • Take advantage of money-back guarantees and thoroughly test the service to ensure you are happy with it.

We looked at all of the above criteria to choose the best VPNs for shopping online.   A VPN which has a Network Address Translation (NAT) firewall can also help to protect you from malicious software while you are connected to it.  Additionally, as we previously stated you should put more emphasis on trust, security, and reliability of the VPN service if online shopping is your primary goal.   Having servers in many locations containing major markets will also help you to get the best competitive price for all of your online purchases.  This can help to save you money while shopping online which can offset the cost of the VPN service.

Other Tips To Help Protect You While Shopping Online

There are a few other things that you can do to help to protect your identity while shopping online.  Some of these include common sense things like do not open emails from unknown sources or download software from sites that you are not familiar with.  The following bullets outline many more of these guidelines and following them will keep you safer when purchasing merchandise online.

  • Download updates – Download your latest computer updates and security fixes from Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, or other applications that may be installed on your computer.  Failure to heed this can put you at risk from any shopping website that may have been compromised with malicious code.
  • Use an Anti-virus/Anti-Malware Program – Trojans, backdoors, keyloggers and other malignant programs can allow entry to your system without your knowledge.  The only way to be sure to protect against them is to install both anti-virus and anti-malware; vendors these days often have solutions which include both.  Remember, a VPN with a NAT firewall can also help you avoid being the victim of these nefarious software programs.
  • Unknown or unsolicited  email – Never open email that you do not recognize.
  • Connect with a VPN – Always connect to a reputable VPN service before doing any online shopping.
  • Create complex passwords – Mix letter cases and use at least nine characters when placing an order online; Do not use dictionary words or personal information.  Use unique password for every shopping site. Password manager – Even better yet use a password manager like Dashlane so that you will only have to remember one password for all of the websites that you shop at.
  • Use a credit card – Use one credit card not tied to your banking account instead of a debit card for all of your online shopping if possible.  This will remove any risk to your banking account and make it easier to monitor all of your online purchases.  Only use your regular credit card with websites that you trust and are familiar with.  If you want to purchase something from a site you are not that familiar with a One time credit card is a better choice.
  • Do not save your PII at online websites – With all of the data breeches, it is better that you enter your personal and credit information on the websites that you shop, but do not store it on each one.  If you use a password manager, these will often fill out this information for you once you have entered it once.
  • Monitor the online shopping card – Monitor the credit card you use for online shopping for unrecognized purchases.  Quickly respond to any such purchases no matter how small and contact your credit card company about them to determine your next course of action to avoid identity theft.
  • Secure connection – Always make sure that any transaction that requires your credit or other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is secured.  You should always see a padlock in the browser store.  Do not enter any PII on a site which does not have the padlock in its browser store.  Using a VPN will ensure that all your financial transactions remain secure.
  • Public Wi-Fi Do not make purchases over any public Wi-Fi connections such as those at your local coffee shop, airport or hotel unless you are connected through a VPN service.
  • Shopping using mobile devices – Web apps and mobile browsers make it easy to buy things online using your mobile phone but you have no idea of the type of encryption they use or if any encryption is even used for your PII when purchasing using these apps.  Never trust these apps for online shopping.  Always remember to lock your phone as this can limit some of the information that may be shared and can protect you if your phone is stolen.  However, the only way to ensure that your PII is safe is to always connect through a VPN when you are using your mobile device to purchase merchandise online.
  • Do not click attachments and links – Always enter your Internet addresses manually and do not click on links or attachments in random emails that you might be sent.  These are often links to phishing websites that are looking to steal your PII.  If you receive unsolicited emails for credit cards, contests, or other reasons that require other PII, assume they are from a phishing website.  It is better to err on the side of caution, rather than become the next victim of identity theft.
  • Social media websites – Do not provide too much personal information via social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.  Social media can be a useful tool but you should control the information that you provide to the general public through it.  You should control your settings to determine who might be able to see more personal information about you.  You should never make any of your financial information public.  This includes showing people where you bank in pictures.  Such careless practices could lead to you being the next victim of identity theft.
  • Monitor Your Credit Profile – If you are in the United States, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion once a year.  You should take advantage of this to make sure that your identity has not already been compromised or that there are not any errors that need to be corrected that could be costing you money when you buy with credit.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are planning on doing just a small amount or a majority of holiday shopping online, you should follow a few guidelines to protect your online identity.  We have looked at some of the common sense things that you can do to keep yourself from becoming the next victim of identity theft.  The most important of these is to do all of your online shopping through a reputable personal VPN service.   This will guarantee that all of your credit card and other personally identifiable information will be protected from prying eyes while shopping online.  It will also ensure that you will have access to the best prices for all of your online purchases and not just those available to you locally.  We have gathered together a list of the best VPNs for the job.  All have money-back guarantees.  Grab the one that you like the best and take it for a test drive.