In addition to protecting your privacy and blocking unwanted tracking online, one of the best reasons to use a VPN is to receive discounts you normally wouldn't.
By using a VPN while shopping online, you can save thousands when purchasing airline tickets and other items by changing your IP address to one in a different country. This is because airlines use local pricing, so a ticket in one country may be much cheaper than a ticket for the same flight in a different country.
However, some users have abused this trick to purchase games from a different country which has led the PC gaming giant Valve to update the account settings in its digital game store Steam. Steam also uses local pricing so buying a new PC game from Costa Rica for instance might cost $40 or $50 while purchasing the same game in the US would cost $60.
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In a recent post on Twitter, SteamDB explained how Valve's new changes will prevent users from buying games while connected to a VPN server outside their home country, saying;
“Valve has recently made changing your store country more strict, which requires completing a purchase using a payment method from that country. This should hinder the ability of using VPNs to buy games cheaper.”
Steam VPN crackdown
Going forward, Steam will now monitor which country is specified in a user's account settings and only show prices in that country's currency.
If a user moves to a new country or stays abroad for an extended period of time, they can only change their country setting after completing a purchase using a payment method from their new location. While this will certainly prevent users from pulling one over on Valve, it could potentially make life difficult for expats living abroad as obtaining a local bank account can sometimes be difficult.
In a support document on its website, Valve explains that using a VPN to disguise your location is against its ToS and could lead to restrictions being placed on your Steam account:
“No, using a proxy or VPN to disguise your location is strictly against the Steam Terms of Service and may result in restrictions on your Steam account. If you attempt to redeem a region restricted game and your location is inconsistent with your past Steam activity, a warning will appear.”
While you won't be able to use a VPN while shopping on Steam anymore, PC gamers can still benefit from the added security, ability to bypass geo-restrictions and other benefits that these services provide. If you don't have a VPN yet, we recommend checking out our complete list of the best gaming VPNs to find one that suits your needs.
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After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.