Friday, June 17, 2016

Using a VPN is a Great Idea, but Not With GMail, Ebay, and Especially Paypal

I've been using the Torguard Virtual Private Network service.  It's far easier and simpler to use than I thought it would be.  I simply paid ($12 per month or so; they often have 50% sales) an annual fee, downloaded a small software package to my Mac, and then I was on.  All my internet traffic, when the Torguard app is connected, goes through their servers. 

They have servers all over the world.  I usually use the Los Angeles server, but when I was in Australia, I used the Sydney server.

At one point, I could not get into my Amazon account from Australia -- Amazon kept redirecting me to their Australia storefront.  I was able to solve the problem by logging into Torguard's LA server from Australia -- thus "tricking" Amazon into thinking that I was logging in from the US, rather than Australia.

Here's the Torguard app for Macs.  The Los Angeles server is chosen. 
Here's the Torguard VPN app while it is running.  The Public IP address masks your real IP address. 

Why use a VPN?  There are several other reasons.  Here are some reasons from:

1.  Your ISP cannot know what you get up to on the internet
2.  You appear to access the internet from the IP address of the VPN server
3.  It is safe to use public WiFi hotspots because the internet connection between your device and the VPN server is encrypted.

This is a huge reason to use VPNs.  If you are using public Wifi hotspots, then you will want to use a VPN. 

Note: All your data is being transmitted through your VPN's servers -- so an evil VPN could see your data.  This is a concern -- I use Torguard because they are well-known and have been recommended by several sources. Supposedly your data is encrypted through the process.  There is a web page that shows you how to make sure that your data is encrypted:

Here's a huge disadvantage to using a VPN that I've discovered.  If you are using a VPN and log into a GMail or Ebay account, then GMail, Ebay, and Paypal will know that you are using a VPN (they log your IP address and match it to known VPN sites).  Since many hackers use VPNs to cloak their identity, Ebay, Paypal, and GMail will immediately challenge your ability to log into your account

Just yesterday, when I logged into GMail to access my email account through Torguard, I was challenged by GMail.  I was asked to provide an access code that was texted to my cell phone.  If I was overseas, then I would not have access to my cell phone's texts, and I would not be able to log into my email account.  Fortunately, GMail will let you log in again if you are not using a VPN - you are not permanently blocked from your account.  In this case, I turned off my VPN, tried to log in using my hotel's wifi network, and I was not challenged.  Gmail told me that someone suspicious had tried to log in a few minutes ago and asked if that was me. 

PayPal treated the situation far more suspiciously and created a huge headache for me (and for all its users, which seems to be a recurring habit of PayPal).  When I tried to log into my Paypal account using a VPN, Paypal immediately SUSPENDED my account.  I was no longer able to log in, period.  I had to verify my identity in several ways, and finally had to wait until I got home to provide a billing statement, copy of my drivers license, and bank statement to prove that I was the owner of the account.  When I was challenged by Paypal, they first asked me to verify a code sent by text (which I could not do, as I was overseas).  Before that, however, they presented a few other ways to verify my identity, such as linking a bank account and credit card.  They ended up rejecting two or three credit cards and bank accounts.  It was frustrating in the extreme, and Paypal locked up several hundred dollars of funds for several weeks in this manner.  I am not a fan of Paypal, and you might want to read the accounts in the website to learn about how Paypal treats its customers terribly. 

I will say that Paypal has become pretty much the only way for friends and acquaintances to send cash to each other.  I've recently tried alternatives, and I had a REALLY BAD experience with Google Payments/Wallet.  I will write about that experience in another post. 

1 comment:

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