Which Documents to Shred to Keep Your Identity Safe

Unsure about which documents to shred, which to keep, and which to just toss in the garbage without fuss? This guide is for you, and in it we’ll show you which types of documents typically contain the most sensitive information. Then, we’ll cover what else you can do to prevent identity theft once you’re done feeding the shredder.

Even in today’s digital age, there is no going around receiving hardcopies of important documents. From purchase receipts to bank statements, we are all guilty of misplacing and throwing out official papers containing sensitive information. In turn, one of the biggest risks for identity theft is right there in plain sight – the documents we should be shredding.

At this point, you must be thinking back to all those times you threw out documents containing your Social Security Number or bank account details. Fortunately, it’s quite unlikely that you chucked anything that’s likely to compromise your identity, credit, etc. Still, it helps to be sure – so in this article, we’ll cover some document types that are risky to throw out and should be shredded.

Which documents put me at risk of identity theft?

There is specific information that one must be careful with in order to prevent identity theft. Below, we’ve listed the most important documents you should shred before you throw out.

Documents stating personal details

First and foremost, your personal information is the most valuable to identity thieves. This includes your Social Security Number, address, and even date of birth. For example, statements from the IRS or letters from your employer could be used to retrieve personally identifiable information. In the wrong hands, your SSN, for example, could be utilized in a manner highly destructive to your credit. Since an identity theft victim spends an average of 600 hours clearing their name, it’s best to destroy any document containing personal details and consequently avoid the situation in the first place.

Account details

This section is one we are all guilty of – storing passwords, usernames, and account numbers for identity thieves to find. If other pieces of information are a mere hint, this is a whole key to your personal accounts. Documents that usually contain this sort of information include credit card statements, tax statements, and utility bills. So, next time you get your phone bill or bank statement for the month, if you have no intention of keeping it, make sure to shred them.

Financial documents

Any letter or statement from a financial institution typically contains sensitive information that could put you and your identity at risk. For example, voided cheques or online purchase receipts contain your bank account information, which can end up serving as a key to your finances. While it is recommended to keep your credit card statements for several years prior to getting rid of them, make sure to shred these documents when the time comes.

Other documents

While the records we’ve mentioned so far have been more obvious, there are some everyday documents that you wouldn’t consider to be risky to simply toss out. However, with more than 60 million Americans being victims of identity theft at any given time, you can never be too careful. Below we list the less obvious documents you should shred before getting rid of them.

  • Boarding passes – this one is surprising, but boarding passes not only contain your name and travel destination, but also have a barcode that any free website could decipher. This information can often be used to gain access to airline accounts, so fraudsters can see your travel plans and even cancel trips.
  • Receipts – many receipts contain the last digits of your credit card and maybe even your signature. This can be used to make fraudulent purchases or returns, as well as to gain access to your store credit.
  • Prescription labels – labels used for prescription medication tend to contain pretty valuable information. Many thieves make use of these bottles in order to get refill of a person’s prescription, therefore make sure to destroy the label prior to throwing it out.
  • CVs – in a nutshell, your resume is essentially your timeline. It contains your name, address, phone number, employment history, academic history, and much more. A resume gives away a myriad of valuable information, therefore be wary of simply tossing it in the bin.

How else can I prevent identity theft?

There can never be a full guarantee that your identity is 100% safe. However, there are many ways you can reduce the risk of being an identity theft victim. For starters, you can use a credit bureau in order to place fraud alerts on your credit report. This way, companies will always take several precaution steps in order to confirm your identity. The next step you can take is place a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze requires you to go through several security steps in order to confirm that it is, in fact, you. Specifically, you will need to state a password or PIN before a company can check your credit report. Although this may cost a small fee, the extra protection is worth it.

There are simpler steps you can take that don’t require contacting credit bureaus at all. For starters, make sure you are checking your accounts online on a regular basis. This way, if there are any unusual charges you don’t recognize, you can spot them immediately. Secondly, make sure you don’t carry your Social Security Card around with you, and don’t have the number written down for thieves to find. Finally, there are many ways to avoid having hard-copy papers by doing certain things online.

For example, you can now pay your bills online, which will eliminate the risk of an identity thief stealing your check from the mailbox. This is the case with most bills today – paying online is faster, safer, and much more convenient. If you do bill pay online, be sure to lock your Internet connection down with a VPN.

Finally, you should consider signing onto an identity theft protection service. You might think this is only useful after you’ve been a victim, but the real-time monitoring of your many identity vectors will help you catch breaches as they happen. This can go a long way towards stopping something far worse from happening under your name.

Conclusion

It’s clear that everyone leaves a paper trail simply by existing, but it’s up to you to minimize the sensitivity of documents exposed to the general public, hackers, thieves, or anyone else. We’ve shown you exactly which document types should be chucked into the shredder first for this very purpose.

Got any other tips besides these? Share them in the comments below!

Read Which Documents to Shred to Keep Your Identity Safe by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Best VPN for Croatia in 2019

Looking for the best VPN to use in Croatia as of 2019? Today’s guide is for you. We’ll present the top 5 VPN providers currently on the market, talk about the state of the Internet in Croatia, and show you how to get a foreign IP to hide your identity and unlock content from anywhere in the world.

Why is it important to stay safe online in Croatia? There are many reasons. First of all, Croatia is part of the EU: a territory known for government surveillance and cooperation with major world governments (like Japan’s and the US’s). Given that many of us don’t have much trust for world governments, given their track record on privacy and Internet freedom, being able to use the web with no restrictions or surveillance is important.

Furthermore, Croatians are limited to smaller content catalogues with online streaming services like Netflix, while channels like Hulu are unavailable altogether. If you want to visit beautiful Croatia without sacrificing your access to the free and open Internet, opt for a VPN. With one of these apps, you can overcome geo-blocking, censorship, spying, and and throttling.

The best VPNs for Croatia in 2019

The VPN market is saturated with providers, some of which command a hefty monthly fee, while others offer seemingly the same service for free. How do you choose? As with most things, the sweet spot occupies the middle ground, and each of our recommended VPNs was picked for performance, privacy, and price.

Here are the best VPNs for Croatia:

1. ExpressVPN

Whether you’re living, studying, or traveling in Croatia, ExpressVPN is the best VPN you can get to use in the country. Everything starts with the service’s massive server network: over 3,000 nodes in 94 countries. With so many servers, it’s easy to get an IP in any country you want. It’s also easy to connect to a server that’s physically close to where you are, minimizing the physical distance data has to travel. Since all servers are equipped with high-speed Internet connections and modern servers, the connections you get are fast and reliable. It helps that ExpressVPN generously offers no limits on traffic, bandwidth, orr rserver switches. With support for all modern device types, you can use the outstanding service to your heart’s content without worrying about paying extra or running out of proverbial mileage.

In addition to being high-quality, ExpressVPN is tight on security. It features all the modern, state-of-the-art encryption protocols, from fast OpenVPN to legacy device-friendly PPTP. It uses 256-bit AES keys that have more possible combinations than there are atoms in the known universe. It has an outstanding zero-logging policy that covers traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, browsing history, and more. Throw in the fact that the holding company is based in the British Virgin Islands – a neutral territory that doesn’t report to the US, UK, or the EU – and you get one of the most secure VPN services available, period. Security extras include an automatic kill switch and a built-in DNS leak test that helps make sure your ISP isn’t secretly watching what you do.

Find out more about this service in our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
  • 94 countries, 3,000+ servers
  • OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2 Encryption
  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Great customer service via chat.
Cons

  • Priced slightly higher.
BEST FOR CROATIA: Stay safe and anonymous in Croatia while retaining your anonymity with ExpressVPN. Get 49% off the yearly plan, plus 3 extra months free with our link.

2. NordVPN

Although Croatia isn’t the most repressive country in the world, it’s not known for perfect Internet freedom either – and NordVPN can help protect you no matter what device type you use and what you do online. Everything starts with a range of special, security-first servers. These include the Double VPN feature which routes your data through two separate servers, thereby encrypting your data and spoofing your IP twice. Another popular choice is the obfuscated server, which hides the fact you’re using a VPN from your ISP and other third parties. In addition to these specialty servers, NordVPN uses a selection of traditional and ultramodern encryption protocols with 256-bit AES encryption keys to keep your data safe while you’re online. When you factor in that NordVPN also has an outstanding no-logging policy that’s one of the best in the industry, you get an outstanding security package for privacy and anonymity.

In addition to being safe, NordVPN is fast. It has one of the biggest server networks that’s ever existed in the VPN industry: 5,300+ nodes in over 60 countries. With so many servers, it’s always easy to find an IP you need on a server that’s got plenty of free bandwidth. It’s also easy to find a server that’s geographically close to you if you want to minimize the distance data travels to and from you. Apps for every popular device and operating system, including routers and video game consoles. Last but not least, bandwidth, traffic, and server switches are all unlimited, meaning you can use NordVPN to your heart’s content whether you’re at home or on the move.

Want to know more? Then check out our full review of NordVPN.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix
  • 5,400+ servers globally
  • DNS leak protection, kill switch
  • Retains no metadata of your browsing
  • Money back guarantee policy.
Cons

  • Some servers can be slow and unreliable
  • Apps can be a bit cumbersome to use.
SPECIAL OFFER: NordVPN is a robust cybersecurity solution Croatian users can count on. Get 3 years of service 75% off with our special link.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a slightly different type of VPN. While most others focus on customization and flexibility, CyberGhost is the rare service that offers a rich feature set in an easy, intuitive interface. When you log in using the desktop apps, you don’t have to make a half-dozen manual choices before getting the connection you need. Instead, you simply choose from one of six easy configuration profiles, which include “anonymous torrenting” and “anonymous surfing”: two use cases perfect for Croatian users. Once you choose a configuration profile, you can further customize your connection with an array of easy toggles like “data compression” and “extra speed”. At the same time, CyberGhost has a remarkably powerful VPN network – 3,700+ servers in nearly 60 countries – and has a versatile feature set. This combination of usability and power is what makes this VPN so great.

One area in which CyberGhost is especially outstanding is security. Its no-logging policy may be the best one in the entire VPN business. The service logs virtually nothing, not even your email address, meaning that tracing your VPN usage back to you is effectively impossible. The encryption keys used are 256-bit AES: military-grade passcodes so tough that not even the world’s major governments can crack it consistently. Encryption protocols range from the speedy L2TP, which is good for gaming, to OpenVPN over UDP and TCP ports for speed and security. Add in some cybersec extras, like a connection guard and a kill switch, and you get a service that’s as safe as it is easy to use.

To learn more, see our full review of CyberGhost.

Pros

  • LOW PRICE: 6 EXTRA free months (79% off – link below)
  • Special profile designed for torrenting privately
  • No leaks detected
  • No logs policy
  • 24/7 Live Chat Support.
Cons

  • WebRTC leak detected
  • Doesn’t work well in China.
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4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN may be the last entry on our list, but it’s got a few outstanding features that make it a top choice for many users. For starters, PrivateVPN’s network has its Internet capacity purchased directly from the IP transit provider. If you’re not sure what that means, consider that most other VPNs opt for shared hosting services, which physically route your data through crowded, rather than dedicated, connections. The result is a boost in speed and stability. Sure, PrivateVPN’s 80+ servers in 59 countries may seem smaller on paper, but each one of those nodes counts.

No matter how you connect, you’ll enjoy 256-bit AES encryption, which has more key combinations than there are stars in the known universe. Specific encryption protocols range from OpenVPN to the even more modern IKEv2 technology, meaning you get state-of-the-art data protection no matter what you’re doing online. Moreover, PrivateVPN has a tight no-logging policy that helps make sure your data stays protected at all times. If anonymity in Croatia is what you want and need, PrivateVPN is an outstanding choice, true to its name..

The service is also generous in features and extras. For starters, it has a unique remote installation service available for desktop users. If you opt into it, a remote support staffer helps you get up and running in just minutes – even if you have absolutely no technical knowledge. Bandwidth, speed, and server switches are all unlimited, meaning you can freely use PrivateVPN to your heart’s content without ever worrying about paying extra or running out of anything. The service is compatible with all common operating systems and devices and comes with 6 simultaneous connections, meaning you can connect multiple devices and share logins with other household members.

Check out our complete PrivateVPN review.

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5. PureVPN

PureVPN is a service that’s noteworthy for its expansive server network. With 2,000+ servers in over 140 countries, PureVPN has one of the farthest-reaching networks in the industry. You can use it to get virtually any IP you want, bypass geo blocking, access international content libraries, and even shop for local deals in any part of the world. If you want a VPN to open up the Internet for you, PureVPN is an excellent choice. It helps that bandwidth, server switches, and traffic are all unlimited. With 5 multi-logins and compatibility with all modern devices and operating systems, you can use PureVPN no matter where you are and with no restrictions. If you ever run into any problems, 24-hour live chat support is always available; a feature that’s rarer even for premium paid VPN services.

In addition to being rich in features and IP choices, PureVPN is strong on fundamentals. It uses 256-bit AES encryption to help you overcome Croatian censorship and protect your data. All modern encryption protocols, from PPTP to OpenVPN, are available. There are P2P and streaming-optimized services for specific use cases. Each server is equipped with a 1 Gbit connection – and PurreVPN helps overcome ISP throttling, wherein your Internet provider sets artificial limits on speed. You can even choose to get a dedicated IP if you don’t want to share one with other Internet users. If you want a strong feature set and the ability to “turn off” geo blocking at will, PureVPN just may be the optimal VPN for you.

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The Internet in Croatia

In terms of Internet usage and connectivity, Croatia is perhaps a step behind most other European countries. You may get faster speeds in cities (where wired connections are common) than in the countryside with limited coverage. Nevertheless, broadband and 4G Internet are essentially ubiquitous. For better or for worse, Croatia also doesn’t regulate its Internet as strictly as other EU nations. For example, hate speech and discrimination isn’t always flagged as such when it happens online. This is unlikely to impinge on your personal Internet use, but is worth noting for a more complete look at Croatian Internet.

What’s censored in Croatia?

At face value, there should be no censorship to Internet usage in Croatia. The country is an EU member and is supposed to follow the area’s laws on Internet freedom. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is somewhat divorced from the theory. Since the EU has opted out of ACTA, some online content gets filtered out in unnecessarily harsh, strict ways. For example: for most Croatian ISPs’ users, search results are filtered regardless of personal preferences. For example, you may find that you can’t find nude images through Google – even if you want to use them for art or your own personal entertainment. You may also find that your access to gambling websites is severely restricted or completely removed, even if what you’re doing isn’t technically illegal. All in all, nothing crazy harsh – but definitely a little inconvenient if you want to use the web freely. A bigger problem is geoblocking.

Geoblocking in Croatia

A lot of Internet users believe that websites like Hulu are unavailable outside the US because of censorship. This is (mostly) incorrect. The reason is that content publishing and distribution companies – from Warner Bros. to Disney – have licensing agreements with international partners that work on a country-by-country basis. That sounds like a mouthful, but it really just means that different companies are responsible for handling copyright-protected music, TV series, films, and more, depending on which country you go to. The result is that while Netflix may have the right to broadcast a show like House of Cards in the US and Canada, it may not be able to do so in, say, China or Russia. This is called geoblocking – and it’s the main reason content isn’t freely available when you live or travel abroad.

In Croatia, geoblocking restrictions mean that services like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu are either unavailable or tightly restricted. The reason is that Croatia is a very small market that there’s little business sense to target. If you want to enjoy the best the web has to offer in terms of content, shopping deals, and more, we strongly recommend that you get a quality VPN to improve your online experience.

How does a VPN help you use the free Internet in Croatia?

A VPN service does two things. First, it encrypts your data before it leaves your computer. This is important because data is usually unencrypted, meaning anyone who gets a hold of it can access and view it freely. From this point of view, getting a VPN is just common sense. Otherwise, important personal details – including bank account numbers, personal correspondence, login information to your favorite websites, and more – could easily fall into the wrong hands. It helps that the VPNs on this page all have strict no-logging policies that prevent them from storing any of your unencrypted data.

In addition to the above, a VPN helps you digitally relocate anywhere in the world (except Antarctica). It does this by routing your data through a remote server rather than your Internet Service Provider’s nodes. This creates a kind of “tunnel” between your device and a remote server, making it seem as if everything you do – whether it involves sending or receiving data – is happening through a server in a remote country. This feature helps beat geo blocking, overcome censorship restrictions, avoid ISP snooping and government surveillance (by making it seem as if you’re not in the country), and more.

Closing words

We’ve given you a brief look at the Croatian Internet, plus more depth into the VPN providers you can use to bolster your cybersecurity within the country. Do you currently live or often travel to Croatia, and have some experiences to share? What will you use your VPN for? Let us know in the comments below.

Read Best VPN for Croatia in 2019 by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What Does a VPN Hide, What Does it Do?

VPNs are becoming an increasingly common cybersecurity tool employed by power users and newbies alike to bolster their privacy online. But what exactly does a VPN hide, and how? This is precisely the question we’ll be answering in today’s article. We’ll also present you with a list of our favorite VPN providers you can trust to keep your Internet connection safe and secure. 

By default, what you do online is unencrypted. This isn’t necessarily a problem for most users. For example, if you live in Europe, GDPR laws now protect your privacy in some fairly advanced ways. At the same time, it’s important to remember there are plenty of bad people and organizations on the Internet. Direct cyber crime alone cost the world over $600 billion last year. With that in mind, it’s worth protecting what you do from third parties, including governments and ISPs, when possible.

It’s also worth remembering that a VPN can do a whole lot more than just protect your data. It can also help you overcome censorship blocks, access the free Internet, and spoof IPs from anywhere in the world – even when you’re traveling or living in a country with strict censorship laws. Read on to learn more about what a VPN can and can’t do for you after we cover the best VPNs available online today.

What does a VPN hide, exactly?

A VPN can hide most of what you do online. This includes everything you do in your browser: the search terms you look up on Google and elsewhere, the URLs you key in, etc. It also hides the files you download, the websites you visit, and anything you may choose to stream. Moving on, a VPN also works to hide what you do when playing video games, using social media, and interacting with standalone apps. In short, a VPN makes it difficult or impossible to trace what you do back to you.

RELATED READING: How to Pretend to Be in a Different Country with a VPN

Having said that, there are some situations in which a VPN won’t do much (if anything) for you. For example, let’s say you have a computer that came with tracking software installed by an employer or someone else. If this is the case, you’ll still be pretty easy to trace. A VPN encrypts and protects your data while it’s traversing the Internet – but if your very computer is being controlled, a VPN can’t reverse that. The same is true if your connection is compromised physically, e.g. via a camera that captures what you do online. Anything that affects your privacy outside of your Internet connection cannot be resolved by a VPN, no matter how good. Last but not least, a VPN cannot protect users from themselves. If you voluntarily hand over information about what you do online, it won’t be able to protect you.

How does a VPN do this? Let’s take a look at 2 factors:

IP spoofing

One of the main things a VPN does is protect your online identity by masking your IP address to stop the government, your ISP, and other third parties from tracking what you do. It does this by creating a digital tunnel between you and a remote server located in another country. The way this works is, data is encrypted before leaving your computer (more on this later). It is then sent to the remote server before going anywhere else, giving you a new IP in the process. This is one of the core functions of any VPN – and the more servers a VPN provider has, the more IPs you get to choose from for your connections.

Here’s a simple example of how this works. Let’s say that your ISP gives you a US IP like 178.127.98.241. Usually, anything you do online is connected to this unique IP. However, if you use a VPN service, it essentially creates a tunnel between you and a remote server. This gives you a completely new IP; for example, 2.22.190.211. Anything you do online thereafter appears to originate from this IP. Depending on the VPN service you use, the IP you get can be a dedicated one that’s attached to you permanently – or a shared one that multiple people use.

Data encryption

The second “big thing” a VPN does is encrypt your data. Usually, when you’re using the Internet, data is unencrypted. This means that anyone who gets a hold of your data can listen to your audio files, follow where you go online, read your messages, etc. Many services do offer some measure of security – for example, payment processors use encryption technology, as do websites with SSL certificates – but that’s really neither here nor there. For the vast majority of your uptime, your data is transparent and easy to read.

What does this mean? Well, it means that anyone who can get a hold of your data can view it. This includes the US government and other major world governments, most (if not all) of whom have been implicated in spying on regular people in recent years. It also includes your Internet Service Provider, who can very easily access anything and everything you do online. Last but not least, it includes all kinds of 3rd parties, from corporations who mine your data to servers that pass your data en route to its final destination. With so many parties potentially getting to access your data, and with few restrictions on how they can use your data, this second VPN feature does a great deal to help you stay secure online.

The best VPN services

Now that you understand a bit more about VPNs, you’ll want to search out the best provider. Unfortunately, the market has hit a saturation point with VPNs of all caliber, ranging from high monthly fees to seemingly free services. We’ll cut to the chase–most aren’t worth your time, as striking the right balance between privacy, performance, and price is delicate work.

The following 5 VPNs are perfect for hiding your data, identity and activity online:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the best way to hide what you do online. The gist of why is succinctly expressed in the service’s name. Although many other VPN services slow down your Internet usage, ExpressVPN always gives you fast connections, low latencies, and zippy downloads. One reason is its massive server network of over 3,000 nodes in 94 countries. With so many options, it’s always easy to find a server that’s close to you, minimizing the distance data needs to travel. Moreover, the high number of nodes means that you can easily access a server that has free traffic and bandwidth. Combined with the brand’s policy – no limits on downloads, server switches, traffic, or bandwidth – this means that ExpressVPN doesn’t slow your connection much if at all.

In addition to being fast, ExpressVPN is secure. It has a range of encryption protocols, including modern state-of-the-art ones like OpenVPN. With these encryption protocols, you can enjoy the free Internet safely, avoid slowing down your connections, and even pierce censorship filters like the Great Firewall of China. Moreover, ExpressVPN doesn’t store your Internet usage data thanks to a comprehensive no-logging policy. The policy covers traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, browsing histories, and more – and means that even if someone accesses ExpressVPN’s records, they won’t find your information there. Between the encryption, the no-logging, and the fact that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands – a country exempt from the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major governments – this is one of the best ways to hide what you do online.

Want to learn more about ExpressVPN’s performance and security? Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
  • Superfast servers (minimal speed loss)
  • Supports ALL devices
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • Slightly pricier than competition.
BEST ONLINE PRIVACY: ExpressVPN is our best overall VPN service. Keep what you do online hidden from your ISP and the government with ExpressVPN. Get 49% off the yearly plan, plus 3 extra months free.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a security-first VPN that’s great for staying anonymous online. It has a number of features specifically made to protect you, help beat censorship, and unlock content. Everything starts with encryption; NordVPN uses 256-bit AES keys that would take a supercomputer millions of years to crack. The specific encryption technologies used include OpenVPN, which blends speed and security, as well as less popular options like SSTP (which is excellent for overcoming national firewalls like China’s). The second layer of security comes from NordVPN’s tough no-logging policy. The service doesn’t store your browsing history, real IP address, traffic, bandwidth, and more – which gives you a very high level of data privacy protection. Moreover, with the holding company being registered in neutral Panama, what little personal information NordVPN does have is unlikely to ever be released to a third party.

One other factor in NordVPN being excellent for privacy is its server network. Not only does it have the highest number of nodes we’ve seen in the industry at 5,700+ in 60 countries. NordVPN has specialty, security-first servers specifically made to help protect your data, device, and identity. This includes obfuscated servers, which hide the fact you’re using a VPN, as well as options like Double VPN nodes that route your data through two servers and two layers of encryption. These servers make it that much easier to keep what you do online private. It helps that they also mean NordVPN’s server network is fast, with low latencies and high download speeds no matter where you happen to be.

To read more NordVPN, read our full review of NordVPN.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix
  • GooglePlay users rating: 4.3/5.0
  • Up to 6 simultaneous connections
  • Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
  • Money back guarantee policy.
Cons

  • Automatic server selection can be unreliable
  • Refund processing can take up to 30 days.
EXCLUSIVE DEAL: NordVPN offers myriad ways to hide online. Sign up for 3 years of service, and get reader exclusive 75% discount with our link.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is an easy-to-use VPN perfect for beginners and anyone who wants anonymity in a quick, intuitive package. The VPN is easy to install and start using no matter how you’re using the Internet. If you use a common operating system or device, e.g. the iPhone, Android, Windows, or macOS, you get to download an app that helps you get CyberGhost on your device in just minutes. If you use a less popular option, you can use the on-site instructions to figure out what you need to do and do everything manually. There are no limits on speed, bandwidth, or traffic, meaning you never have to worry about turning CyberGhost off or making extra payments.

CyberGhost isn’t just easy to install, though. It’s both easy to use and powerful on features. For starters, the app eschews complex manual settings in favor of 6 straightforward, intuitive configuration profiles. These include “torrent anonymously” and “surf anonymously”, both of which are made to hide what you do online from third parties. If you do want to choose your own settings manually, you’re always free to do so using the custom settings option. Once you’ve picked a configuration profile, you can use a number of simple toggles to further customize your connection. These extra features include “block ads”, “extra speed”, and “data compression”, all of which help tailor CyberGhost to your specific situation. Between these features, powerful AES-256 encryption, and one of the best no-logging policies in the business – not even your e-mails are stored – CyberGhost is one of the best choices for hiding what you do online.

Would you like to find out more? Then see the full review of CyberGhost for 2019.

Pros

  • LOW PRICE: 6 EXTRA free months (79% off – link below)
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Apps for ALL devices
  • Strict no logging
  • 45-days money back guarantee.
Cons

  • WebRTC IPv6 leak in macOS
  • Can’t unblock some popular streaming sites.
SAVE BIG: CyberGhost is VPN protection made easy. Try this streamlined provider for 18 months with our special 79% discount.

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN has incredibly powerful AES-256 encryption that prevents even the world’s most powerful supercomputer from cracking your data. It helps that PrivateVPN has a wide selection of encryption protocols, from quick, powerful OpenVPN to the new and exciting IKEv2 protocol. There’s also SOCKS5-ready servers–technology which was specifically designed to beat the Great Firewall of China, if you’re in a country with strict censorship restrictions. Throw in a no-logging policy that covers virtually everything you can think of, and you get one of the most secure VPNs on the market today.

In addition to the above, PrivateVPN has an outstanding server network and a neat range of extra features. For example, you get up to 6 simultaneous connections without having to pay a cent over your monthly subscription fee. This is a valuable feature, especially because PrivateVPN is easy to install on any Internet devices, from iOS and Windows and Linux to video game consoles and routers. Desktop devices even get a free remote installation service wherein a service staffer takes care of your VPN setup process for you. Between these extras and unlimited bandwidth, traffic, and server switches, PrivateVPN is an excellent way to hide what you do online from all third parties.

Take a look at our full PrivateVPN review for more details.

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5. PureVPN

PureVPN is a veteran of the VPN industry, and has had ample time to build a great reputation and impressive array of features. It starts with a network spanning 2,000+ nodes in a whopping 140 countries, allowing you to route your data through almost any country you can think of. This means that you can access most of the world’s local content libraries, digitally relocate virtually anywhere, and spoof an IP from any continent except Antarctica. You’ll be spoiled for choice if your current server gets too crowded, or you travel somewhere else in the world.

Your data remains hidden behind a veil of 256-bit AES cryptography, which has no known weaknesses. Choose from among a wide variety of encryption protocols, including OpenVPN for the optimal balance of privacy and performance, and the censorship-piercing SSTP. There’s also a generous no-logging policy to completely erase any trace of your activity online.

But PureVPN offers so much more beyond standard fare–it’s a complete cybersecurity suite. You’ll find app filtering, DDoS protection, getting a dedicated IP address, NAT firewalls, anti-spam filtering, and even antivirus software inside your app. Truly, PureVPN is an impressive service that has provided its users the ability to hide online for over a decade.

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Is a free VPN worth it?

There are many free VPNs out there. Some are excellent, some – less so. Let’s start with some of the main reasons a free VPN may not be the right choice for you. First of all, it’s important to understand that “free” is a bit of a misnomer. Any VPN service needs to pay for traffic, bandwidth, servers, and more. This means they need to get money from users like yourself. Some do it by showing ads and encouraging you to upgrade to a paid version of their service. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some VPNs are quite unscrupulous when it comes to making money. There have been numerous cases of them making users less safe, harvesting data for resale, and even leasing out your processing power for botnet attacks. This is obviously not something you want in a VPN service – and it raises the question of whether it makes sense to get a free VPN or not.

Outside of the above, i.e. assuming your provider isn’t doing anything malicious, there are a few other considerations. First of all, most free services only have one or two encryption protocols. A common one is PPTP; an outdated protocol that’s useful for legacy devices and piercing hardcore censorship blocks, but slow and inferior in other situations. Second, bandwidth and speed are both likely to be capped with a free service, typically in the range of 500 MB – 1 GB per month. Third, the number of servers is also likely to be limited to countries like the US and the UK. Last but not least, a free VPN is unlikely to have extras like apps for multiple devices, around-the-clock customer support, etc. All of this means that the service quality you get is worse than you can expect from a paid VPN service.

In closing

The technology behind a VPN may be complex, but its core functionality is fairly straightforward. By encrypting your data and rerouting it through an anonymous relay located somewhere else in the world, it’s all but impossible for third parties to snoop in on your identity or activity online.

We’ve shown you some of the best providers on the market, which one will you choose? Do you have any other tips for hiding your data online? Leave us a comment below!

Read What Does a VPN Hide, What Does it Do? by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Protect Yourself from ID Theft – Before and After it Happens

Identity theft is a sinister concept that can make you feel helplessly at the mercy of criminals. But it’s not true! In today’s article, we’ll equip you with the tips you need to learn how to protect yourself from ID theft. 

If someone gets access to your personal information – say, your Social Security Number, address, and phone number – they can imitate you very convincingly, especially over the phone and via e-mail. This is how criminals gain access to bank accounts, deposit boxes, and more.

It’s easy to think that the problem won’t affect you if you understand personal security on a basic level. Unfortunately, the situation may be out of your hands. A lot of times, careless credit card companies, payment processors, and other third parties compromise your identity. This article will help you stay safe no matter what happens, though – so make sure to read through and until the end.

Protecting yourself by being proactive

Many people think that getting an annual credit report is enough to know whether their identity is safe and their finances – in order. This is incorrect. It’s strongly recommended you run a full background check on yourself once a year, because your name and ID could be used in all kinds of malevolent ways, both related and unrelated to finance.

You should also do several things proactively. For example, review every piece of mail you get very carefully for signs of tampering. If you believe that someone could glean important information about you from any envelope you receive, take whatever steps are necessary to secure your identity, your property, your phone numbers, etc.

Calling your bank and phone operator are common first steps. Moreover, make sure to never just throw out documents that carry any of your personal information. This includes pre-approved credit cards, partially filled out credit applications, mail that can point to data that identifies you, etc. You can also opt for an identity theft protection service, which combs through all the different vectors through which your identity can be compromised, giving you clear answers at a glance.

In addition to being proactive when everything is fine, remember to remain vigilant if you do become a victim of identity theft. For example, consider hiring a private investigator as soon as your research or that of your identity protection service uncovers evidence that your ID has been compromised. This will help make sure that the damage done by criminals is kept to a bare minimum. It will also maximize the likelihood of any losses being easy to reverse. Perhaps most importantly, a private investigator will be able to prove that you’re innocent tof whatever was done when it’s time to report to credit bureaus, the police, the DMV, etc.

If you don’t or won’t hire a PI, at least go to the nearest available police representative and state your case. The sooner you let someone in a position of authority know about what happened, the higher your chances of coming out of the whole experience unscathed.

How can I tell my identity has been stolen?

Below, we present 10 warning signs that your identity has been stolen. Just because one of these points applies to you, doesn’t mean all is lost and that you should panic. It’s all the more reason to take a closer look via an identity theft protection agency. Of course, if you find yourself nodding to several of these points, the urgency for running a check on yourself increases, as does the likelihood that you need to seek help from a PI or local authorities.

  1. Your bank’s fraud control department calling you to report or ask you about suspicious card activity.
  2. You receiving credit cards you cannot remember ever applying for.
  3. Card or bank account charges you cannot remember making. It’s important to be vigilant of these, especially when you share an account or card with a spouse or family member.
  4. The police calling you – sometimes from another state – to explain that you have somehow been implicated or designated as a person of interest in a crime.
  5. Checks bouncing when you’re supposed to have plenty of money in your account could point to someone else having cleaned it out.
  6. Missing bills or letters. If you didn’t receive a note you were supposed to get, there’s a fair chance someone else is intercepting your communications.
  7. Being turned down for credit and finding out you have an unexpectedly low credit score. This could be a sign of someone else taking out credit in your name.
  8. Seeing that your physical mailbox or specific letters have been tampered with.
  9. Receiving a post office notification letting you know your emails are now being forwarded to a new address.
  10. Finding out that your annual tax returns indicate more money than you’ve earned. This may mean someone else is using your Social Security number on their income.

Responding to having your identity stolen

First and foremost, make sure to shut down anything that could lose you money. If you have a large sum of money on a bank account or card, call the bank and explain that your identity has been stolen. Having done that, call any of the Big 3 credit rating agencies and relay them the same.

All credit agencies have to share information, so once you’ve done these 2 things, you’ll have ruled out credit and debit card fraud as well as credit fraud. Next, take a careful look at all your recent financial records. If you see that anything at all appears awry, keep note of it and report it to your bank, the police, and anyone else that gets involved in resolving the issue.

Once you’ve done the above, contact your local police department immediately. They may not be able to do anything, but in a worst-case scenario, they’ll be able to verify your actions with a paper trail and help back your claim in legal court and with insurance. Having contacted the police, file a FTC report by visiting identitytheft.gov and following the instructions that apply to your specific situation and scenario. If, after doing the above, you’re still concerned about financial theft and fraud, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that will keep you abreast of any credit taken out in your name.

These steps may not be enough on their own – but your bank, credit card company, and local police representatives will tell you exactly what to do once you’ve done all of the above.

In conclusion

ID theft is a hot topic these days, and can cause serious anxiety for anyone at risk. Luckily, there are concrete actions you can take to shore up the security of your personal identity. We’ve laid out a solid foundation upon which you can begin to research your situation, and take preventative or restorative action.

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? What can you share to help others who might be faced with the same situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Read How to Protect Yourself from ID Theft – Before and After it Happens by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen? Start Here!

Looking for information on what to do if your identity is stolen? We know it can be a frightening time, but luckily it’s very possible to effectively mitigate and recover from the damages done–if you know how. It is the goal of today’s article to serve as a starting point for getting your life back on track after identity theft.

Now, how common is identity theft? A 2016 survey showed 41 million Americans have been a victim of identity theft. While it’s no guarantee you’ll ever suffer a stolen identity, these numbers are on the rise. It pays to educate yourself on what to do when your identity is stolen.

After all, identity theft isn’t really just about your identity. Anyone who has your personal data – like your address, phone number, Social Security Number, and more – can do all kinds of things by pretending to be you. This includes opening lines of credit in your name and exposing you to criminal charges. To make sure you’re safe from scenarios like these even after your identity has been stolen, keep reading all the way through.

What to do if my identity has been stolen?

So you’ve just found out or strongly suspect that you’ve been victimized by ID fraud. What now? Follow the process below to get the ball rolling:

Do your research/hire a professional ID service

First thing’s first: you need to minimize your direct financial risks by making sure nobody can access your money accounts nor take out a credit line in your name. The order in which you do these two things depends on your bank situation. If you have a small daily limit for withdrawing cash and making payments, or a small balance in any accounts that can be accessed immediately, you can contact one of the big 3 credit companies first. Once you contact Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion and let them know your identity has been stolen, they will immediately inform the other two agencies, preventing credit being taken out in your name illegally.

Conversely, if you stand to lose a large amount of money directly from your bank accounts and cards, reach out to account services at your financial establishment. Ask to close or limit access to accounts, and block or close credit and debit cards, and/or restrict iphone access to your accounts. Once you’ve gone through the above steps, consider using an identity theft protection service to check all the nooks and crannies of your identity (including how your SSN, name, DOB, address, email, telephone, and other credentials may be being used), or hire a private investigator. Among the worst things these measures can uncover are, abuse of your financial accounts, or opening a new line of credit in your name.

Beyond the above, much of what you need to do is going to be subjective and varies from case to case. One thing you should always do is file a police report. One reason is that a police report placed sooner rather than later is the best way to catch criminals and reverse the damage they do. Another reason is that a report offers proof of the fact that a crime happened. It will come in handy when you need to remove fraudulent charges and activities from your credit report and bank accounts when prompted to do so later down the line.

Should you hire a Private Investigator for a deep dive?

Put simple, hiring a PI is expensive, so you want to gain a general assessment of the damage done before shelling out. For reference, PI’s can run basic checks to help you uncover vulnerabilities in your identity network that run between $500 and $1,000. More comprehensive dives can easily soar to $2,500+. That’s why it’s always important to gather as much preliminary information if you’re not immediately aware of the severity of the leak.

When is it worth hiring a P.I.? The first scenario is when you definitely know your ID has been stolen. If this is your situation, an investigator can actually do a lot for you. They can help you figure out how your information was accessed and how you can prevent future leaks. They can help you track down the person responsible for the crime and help reverse some of the damage – or at least bring the offender to justice. Perhaps most importantly, a PI can confirm – beyond the shadow of a doubt – whether your ID really has been stolen if an ID protection  or background checking service has left you in doubt.

What are the risks of someone else using your identity?

Below, we list some of the main types of problems that can happen if someone else gets access to your identity information.

  • Account takeovers. This is the single most common type of fraud because it’s fast, profitable, and relatively safe for criminals. What happens is that someone else gets access to a phone number, bank account, or online account using your information. They then use this access to siphon money away from you, e.g. by using your number to gain access to your online bank.
  • New account creation. Another popular type of identity fraud is creating new accounts, especially credit card accounts in your name. If this happens, you’ll be on the hook for a potentially vast sum of money. To prevent this, make sure that any background checking service you use to secure yourself and your money features credit rating reports.
  • Employment and medical services identity theft. It may seem too bizarre to be true, but a person who couldn’t otherwise get a job or healthcare can use your information to get them on your behalf. With medical services, this can lead to problems with your insurer and a medical record that doesn’t reflect what actually happened to you. With jobs, it can be a problem because the IRS will likely come to you to get the tax money the fraudster owes them.
  • Criminal identity theft. In this scenario, a criminal gives your information instead of their own when in trouble with the law. This can result in fines, penalties, and potentially even travel restrictions and time spent in court. This is arguably the most difficult consequence of identity theft because it can even make you unable to leave your state or country.
  • Synthetic identity theft. This kind of theft is the hardest to spot and often calls for the help of a private investigator. Synthetic identities are also known as composite identities, and they’re made up of different people’s real-life data. For example, a synthetic identity might feature your Social Security number but someone else’s name, making it harder for you to find out you’ve been defrauded.

In closing

Identity theft is no laughing matter. It can easily result in money lost, a criminal record, and more. Now that you know how to protect yourself, what are you going to do next? Leave a note below and let us know!

Read What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen? Start Here! by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter