Should I Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

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Welcome to your “2-Minute Money Manager,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers.

Today’s question is about internet privacy and security; specifically, whether a virtual private network, or VPN, is something we should all include in our online toolboxes.

Watch the following video, and you’ll pick up some valuable info. Or, if you prefer, scroll down to read the full transcript and find out what I said.

You also can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

For more information, check out “Protect Your Data — Critical Things to Know About Public and Hotel Wi-Fi” and “Ask Stacy: How Can I Stay Safe Online?” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the words “online security” and find plenty of information on just about everything relating to this topic.

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Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript.

Don’t want to watch? Here’s what I said in the video

Hello, and welcome to your “2-Minute Money Manager.” I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and these two minutes are brought to you by, serving up the best in personal finance news and advice since 1991.

Today’s question comes to us from “P.” Here it is:

With all the spying going on, on the internet, I’d read that using a VPN is a good idea. What recommendations can you make? Are free VPNs as good as paid?

Here are three things you need to know about VPNs, or virtual private networks.

Thing No. 1: Understanding virtual private networks

Imagine that you’re driving down the street in your car. Anyone can follow you. They can see who you are, they can see where you’re going.

Now, imagine that you duck into a parking garage, and sight unseen, park your car, get into another one and leave the garage through a different exit. Now no one knows who you are, where you’re going or what you’re doing.

That’s what a VPN, or virtual private network, does for you.

A VPN protects both the data you’re sending and your identity. Maybe you’re wondering, “Why do I care?” Well, you care because there are a lot of crooks out there — especially if you use public Wi-Fi — and you can get into big trouble in a hurry. So, keeping your data private and shielding your identity can be a really good idea.

In addition, now that net neutrality has gone away, an internet service provider is free to follow you online and sell information about where you’re going online, what you’re buying and what you’re doing. Like that idea? I certainly don’t.

These are reasons why a VPN is a good idea.

Thing No. 2: How much does it cost?

A typical VPN costs between $3 and $10 a month. That’s an extra expense every month to keep your data and yourself private. Whether that is worth it is up to you.

You can get free VPNs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, free VPNs may be ad-supported, and they may not go as fast as the ones you pay for.

If you’re wondering where to find a VPN, I found a great review on PCMag’s website. CNET has a good one as well. Check them both out.

Thing No. 3: VPN drawbacks

You may have to sacrifice a little convenience when you use a VPN. It may slow you down a bit on the internet, and there are services like Netflix that don’t even allow VPNs. So, you’re going to have a bit of a learning curve here. You’ll need to do a little bit of reading, understand a little bit more about how these things work, then decide if it’s something you want to move forward with.

Hope that answers your question. Meet me right here next time!

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About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

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