Are you getting scammed?
During my time as a growth hacker these past 4 years, I have seen so many dishonest proxy providers that it made me lose all hope for a fair market.
In fact, I can say with confidence that the vast majority of suppliers are using at least one of the sketchy tactics I am going to list below, some of these are dishonest marketing terms or tactics and some of them are straight lies and practices that can get your accounts banned and your identity compromised.
Basically, these proxy providers are using the fact that the majority of the consumers in the market have little to no knowledge on proxy servers and the basic way IPs are “created” and distributed, they market and sell promises that are clearly scams.
So, what are the ways proxy providers use to scam you? and how can you tell if a proxy provider is really honest?
The first method proxy suppliers use to scam and make an extra buck from every proxy is cross-selling, basically they market and promise their customers a private proxy at a premium price, only to proceed and sell the proxy to two or even more people.
If you are growing accounts at any platform you don’t need me to tell you the danger of the situation this puts you in, it is extremely risky for your account, it lowers your trust score significantly and can definitely get you banned. Imagine 10 or 20 IG accounts running on a single residential proxy, ouch.
How to avoid?
Access Logs – Every proxy server has an access log, which basically logs the traffic data and identity (public IPs) of everyone who is connecting to the proxy server. You can ask your supplier to show you a direct live view of the access log for a few hours/days, and check to see if only your IP is listed.
While this indeed can be faked, dealing with a supplier who refuses showing you the access logs is already a huge red flag.
Remember: ask to see the actual access log that is sitting on the server, not the one that is (sometimes) integrated into their website.
Offering Unrealistic Coverage
This is a very popular tactic with sketchy proxy providers and it is super easy to detect. It goes like this – a (often very small) proxy supplier offers proxies from many different locations, sometimes stating “from every state in the US” or “worldwide proxy locations”, while this is very possible for data center proxies, this is straight up impossible for residential or mobile proxies unless you are using a botnet.
Let me explain the differences between these proxies.
Data Center Proxies – IPs that were allocated by IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), the organization that oversees global IP address allocation, to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or big companies in order for them to provide these IPs to business users, you can easily sit in any place in the world and source them from other countries online.
Residential Proxies – IPs that were allocated by IANA to ISPs in order for them to provide these IPs to regular home users.
These are IPs are extremely difficult and expensive to source because of 2 reasons – the first is that when a company buys these IPs in bulk from an ISP they will all have the same subnet (or only a handful of subnets) and they will all be detected and marked very quickly by big tech companies, making them no different from data center proxies.
The second reason is that ISPs sell ownership information of IPs to companies like Google and Facebook for profit, basically letting them know who owns the IP subnet.
Even if you do manage to somehow get a lot of different IPs from an ISP that marks you a private consumer and doesn’t sell your data to big tech, you will still likely get detected very very fast.
The reason is that even if you own a residential subnet of IPs, big tech companies will always scan every IP they can find and monitor it’s traffic to see anything unusual, they know that all of these IPs belong to the same subnet, and if they see that these IPs all produce unusual (not human) traffic, they will mark the subnet very fast.
To offer residential proxies – a supplier must negotiate a deal with an ISP to sell them consumer IPs, make sure they don’t disclose this info to big tech and make sure that these IPs all produce traffic that is considered organic by big tech.
You can see now why this is very hard to sell just a few true residential proxies, let alone a state or worldwide coverage, to do that you will basically have to be a multi million dollar company or use a botnet (more on botnets below).
Mobile Proxies – IPs that were allocated by IANA to mobile ISPs in order for them to allocate to their users.
Due to the huge shortage of IPv4 IPs (normal IPs), mobile ISPs provide these to tens or hundreds of users at the same time, making it impossible for big tech to blacklist these IPs, this is why these proxies have the most quality IPs possible and are so expensive to produce, they require actual physical hardware and SIM cards.
There is another way to make 4G proxies and that is to use someone else’s smartphone internet connection, usually without them being aware of that (unfortunately, Apple and Google allow these apps on their app stores, just like they allow apps to track you 24/7 in real time and allow Facebook to read your SMS messages), but then you get a proxy which is shared with the real user of the smartphone and not a private proxy.
There is no way of making private 4G proxies without SIM cards and some sort of computing and networking devices (modems, smartphones, PCs, etc).
If a proxy provider offers “4G proxies from every state” or even “from every country”, they must have 10s to 100s of physical offices, with 10s of employees and dedicated fiber optics in each of these offices.
This will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can see now why these proxy suppliers are clearly lying as they are certainly not a million dollar company.
What they are doing instead is selling you data center proxies at a markup or just hacking peoples phones to use their connection (botnets), a practice that is illegal and bad for your accounts as other people use these IPs too.
How to avoid?
Use the methods you learned above to identify sketchy proxy providers – A guy selling you proxies on Facebook and doesn’t even have a website does not have 4G proxies in every state in the US and a company with a website which is not professionally made and has spelling mistakes is not selling true residential proxies in every country in the world.
If they did then it means they have millions of dollars and could afford a professional website with great support and a big marketing team.
Offering Unrealistic Pricing
Remember, every business needs to turn a profit, so if the pricing seems too good to be true, it usually is.
If the cheapest mobile unlimited plan in the US costs 30$, how can a proxy provider sell their proxies at 30$ and still turn a profit ? This is without taking into account additional hardware and dedicated symmetrical fiber to the home.
Due to IP economics and hardware equipment, if a supplier offers you a “residential proxy” for less than 1$, or a “mobile proxy” for less than 30$ (it is still extremely unlikely that anyone will sell a true 4G proxy at these prices in any country and turn a profit), they are either losing money (very unlikely), cross-selling or lying to you, even huge companies with piles of cash reserves will almost definitely lose money selling at those prices.
How to avoid?
Don’t buy proxies from a provider that is selling proxies below the prices mentioned above, it is certainly a scam.
Selling a proxy as 4G/Residential while it’s just a data center proxy
Some proxy providers will sometimes market their proxies as 4G or residential while they are clearly not, most often they will just be rotating data center proxies.
How to avoid?
Read my guide “How to know if a proxy is really 4G/Residential” and understand the different techniques to identify scammers.
TL;DR: Ask to see their hardware, research the IP address and ISP, check to see if the IP you are connecting to is the same as your public IP, only buy proxies from well known and trusted suppliers.
Using a Botnet
A botnet is a massive network of devices, all controlled by a single entity, in proxy terms we use this term to describe a huge network of devices that have their internet connection controlled in order to produce massive amounts of proxies from real users device, often without them knowing.
A (not very small) percentage of proxy providers use this method to sell residential or mobile proxies, they basically hack every smartphone or computer they can find and use their internet connection to sell you proxies. This is illegal, can get your accounts banned (since real users are also running accounts on these IPs) and can even get you into trouble with the police.
Imagine someone realizing he got hacked and the police tracing the connected IP back to you, while it is unlikely it is definitely possible.
It is worth mentioning that some proxy providers do use botnets in a completely legal way, they usually have a popular software or app that runs the proxy server in the background, allowing the developers to earn their money without integrating ads. However, while this might be good for other purposes, it is still bad for growing accounts, as real users will most likely have their own accounts on their devices and these proxies are basically shared proxies.
How to avoid ?
Identifying a botnet proxy provider is actually quite easy, they will almost always market proxies from many different locations and charge unrealistic prices.
Use the methods I described above to identify these botnet providers and do not buy proxies from a company that claims to have that many proxy locations unless it is clearly a huge well known brand with huge piles of cash.
Using misleading terms
A huge percentage of proxy suppliers will use misleading and meaningless terms to market their proxies, they are basically using the fact that people don’t really know what these terms mean and lie to sell their proxies.
How to avoid?
Read my guide “How to know if a proxy is really 4G/Residential” and understand the different types of proxies and their meaning, I also cover how to know if a proxy is really what it is marketed or not and which terms are meaningless marketing.