First off, there is no all-in-one cyber tool that you can use to safeguard your data while you surf the internet. That’s why depending solely on a VPN is not your best bet when you want protection against malicious downloads, ads, software, or attachments (via Defending Digital). They are designed to give you only basic malware protection at best. Although they are good at giving you more privacy while you surf the web, this doesn’t mean they can protect you from everything. While you might be able to ward off low-level attacks to some extent, it won’t protect you if you happen to visit malicious URLs or accidentally downloaded a virus. You should think of them more as a prevention measure rather than your go-to shield.
However, they do an excellent job when it comes to shielding your data when using public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks are a notorious known way for scammers to steal your private information (via Clario). Using a VPN while using a shared network adds an extra level of security and greatly lessens the risk of identity theft.
For the highest levels of protection, you can combine your VPN service with antivirus software such as McAfee or Total AV so your data can be safe at all times.