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      Christmas shopping for an unusual year
      BY Emma Simms

      2020 has been a very interesting year and the majority of us have found that our plans for this year have gone directly out of the window, with cancellations littering the calendar. However, despite everything happening around us, Christmas will still go ahead, albeit potentially looking a little different. Whether this means we are hosting virtual parties, having an intimate Christmas dinner, increasing the Christmas card list or shopping exclusively online, we will all make sure to share this joyous holiday together.


      The pandemic has caused a number of disruptions when it comes to the typical shopping experience which is already affecting the Christmas shop. This has included the cancellation of Christmas markets, supply issues and struggling shops forced to close down. From January – June 2020, 11,102 chain stores shut across the UK due to struggles aggravated by the pandemic and lockdown (BBC News, 2020). The UK’s 2nd lockdown, due to end 2nd December, has also forced many shoppers to wait for shops to re-open & stock this year’s Christmas gifts and items.


      So how can you make sure your family and friends still receive Christmas gifts in time for Christmas Day?


      Bargain Hunting online: Get the best deals by shopping online.

      According to the NCSC’s ‘UK Cyber Survey’, 89% of people use the internet to make purchases and this figure could increase further due to continued lockdown and covid-19 precautions. However, it is still important to practice safe browsing to ensure you are selecting legitimate deals from secure websites. When purchasing from a website make sure to check the following before submitting any details:

      • Make sure the URL of a website begins with ‘https://’, this means the site uses secure encryption to protect your data in transit.
      • Does the website have clear contact information and a link to a privacy policy (read this!!)?
      • Where possible purchase from known brands and make sure to check the URL address is spelt correctly i.e. amazon.co.uk and NOT www.amozon.co.uk.
      • Check the reviews to help you spot any inconsistencies.
      • Is the website using a known payment method i.e. PayPal or Visa options?

      If a website does not follow anything on the above check list, we highly recommend using a different site as it could be unsafe and used as part of a phishing attack allowing hackers to gain access to your details.


      Getting it delivered: Shopping on the go.

      As physical gift exchanges may be difficult this year, take advantage of click & collect services or direct deliveries to ensure your gifts arrive on time and directly to the correct house. These services can be used while you are browsing online and offline. If you are shopping out & about and want to compare the price of an item online or book a delivery slot, make sure you are using a secure internet connection.


      Public wi-fi connections are now available in many stores across the UK for free, however it can often be difficult to confirm that it is a secure connection as by using a public connection ‘you have no direct control over its security’ (PCMag 2019). Therefore, we recommend following these simple steps:

      • Make sure the devices you are using are secure before making a connection and if you are unsure, opt for using your data or wait to connect to a known secure network.
      • Confirm the wi-fi name matches promotional information displayed in store and provided by staff.
      • Be wary of networks that ask you to submit personal data before connecting.
      • Avoid entering personal information on sites you visit while connected to public wi-fi including bank accounts, social media accounts and shopping accounts.

      When connecting to public wi-fi we recommend using a VPN. This helps to ensure that all your information is kept secure when connecting to any insecure wi-fi access points, allowing you to browse more freely.


      Beware of email discount codes

      We all love a discount and it can be a fantastic feeling when you receive an email with a discount from your favourite store, especially when hunting for Christmas bargains. However, make sure to check before you click! One of the most common cyber-attacks is a phishing attack - 69% of spam emails encourage users to visit a malicious URL (Matt Ahlgren, Website Hosting Rating 2019). Always check who is sending you the email and make sure the email address matches the sender’s name. Avoid clicking or downloading anything from an unknown address or stranger. If in doubt and you believe an email is from someone you know but you are unsure, ask the sender directly and do not reply to the email.


      If something looks unsafe or insecure, do not click on anything or enter any personal details. Stay safe and secure this Christmas and for more information on how you can stay secure please contact Sprout IT today. www.sproutit.co.uk/contact-us/ or call 0161 452 0311. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

      christmas Christmas shopping safe online shopping shopping legal technology phishing