“‘Tis the season to be jolly!” So goes the famous Christmas carol, although “‘tis the season to go shopping” might be more appropriate. With Halloween and Thanksgiving now behind us, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday done with for another year, retailers and advertising are now focusing on the Christmas rush. With the Christmas countdown now firmly underway on advent calendars around the world, everyone is in a panic to get their Christmas shopping before it’s too late.
There are presents to be bought, stockings to be stuffed, and kitchen cupboards to be filled. Fortunately, online shopping has saved many of us the angst of fighting through the High Street crowds. But there are still plenty of risks involved. As quite a few online retailers have suffered data breaches in recent years, security should be top of mind whenever entering sensitive payment details in at checkout. This is where a VPN can help. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about Holiday season shopping with a VPN as well as recommend the best VPNs to use when shopping online.
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- 1 Why Use a VPN for Holiday Season Shopping?
- 2 Best VPNs for Holiday Season Shopping
- 3 Conclusion
Why Use a VPN for Holiday Season Shopping?
Online shopping has fundamentally changed the way we get ourselves ready for Christmas. Nowadays, we can buy all our Christmas presents online and get them wrapped and sent directly to friends and family. We can also do the huge Christmas food shop online too and have everything bagged up and delivered to our door. Indeed, it is perfectly possible to buy everything to prepare for the festive season without ever leaving the house.
But online shopping does not come without its risk. Just as you could find yourself pickpocketed in a busy shop, so there are plenty of hackers out there looking to steal from online shoppers too. This year alone there have been data breaches from Saks, Brooks Brothers, Kmart, Whole Food Market and Forever 21 to name but a few. And let’s not forget the infamous 2013 hacking of Target, which is still thought to be the biggest retail data breach in history.
VPNs Protect Your Personal Information Online
Unfortunately, it is impossible to do online shopping without sharing certain personal information with retailers. And as we’ve seen, many retailers have woefully insufficient data protection, which means these credentials will be vulnerable. But there are still steps we can take to protect ourselves!
While most retailers implement some form of encryption to ensure secure checkouts, some use stronger protocols than others. Using a reputable VPN guarantees that your data will be protected by the highest levels of encryption, regardless of which online store you shop at. In this day and age, using an encrypted tunnel to handle all online purchases should be standard practice. However, there are also a number of other scenarios where using a VPN can be advantageous to the festive shopper.
When Using Public Wi-Fi
Despite the convenience of online shopping, most people still like to see and touch something before they buy it, especially if it is an important gift for a loved one. As such, many folks will head into town to look at things in shops before making a purchase. They might opt to spring for an in-store purchase, but most likely they’ll wait to pop onto the nearest public Wi-Fi connection to snag their gift for cheaper.
This is a big mistake. Public Wi-Fi is the most insecure method of going online and makes your activity and any personal information open to even the most novice of hackers. A VPN encrypts your data no matter what type of internet connection you are using, and so can make even the most insecure public Wi-Fi network safe to shop on.
When Using a New, Small, or Unknown Site
Christmas time is peak season for online retailers, so it is no surprise that there are new sites popping up all over the place to capitalize on the increase in shopping traffic. Many of these are reputable small business trying to find a place in the market, but others may not be so legitimate. Many of us are a sucker for an online bargain and hackers know this better than anyone.
It is not unknown for hackers to set up online websites offering tempting bargains to draw us in. Once we enter our personal and financial details, they can then drain our accounts in seconds. Even visiting such a site can lead to malware being downloaded onto our system and all our online activity being tracked. If you willingly hand over such information to a dodgy site there is not much that can be done, but the encryption offered by a VPN makes it much harder for dodgy websites to plant malicious software on your device. So, with a VPN and proper due-diligence of new sites, it is possible for the consumer to protect themselves online.
Bypassing Geo-blocking to Save Money
Retailers charge different prices in different countries, giving savvy consumers an opportunity to make some significant savings. If you know what you are wanting to buy, it is possible to shop around internationally to find the best bargain. This might mean looking at local retail sites or the country sites of a global retailer and working out where the price is best. But this is impossible without a VPN, as all retailers will geo-restrict content to ensure local consumers are the only ones who can access and buy content.
But with a VPN, you can change your IP Address to make it appear as if you are in another country and therefore access sites, content, and prices which are restricted to that country. For example, if you want to buy a new MacBook Pro laptop from the UK, you will be looking at a cost of about £1,400. But in the USA it is just $1,400, which works out as being several hundred pounds cheaper. You will need a US delivery address, but if you can find someone to send it on to you, there is still a big saving to be made. Spoofing your location with a VPN makes it all possible!
Evading Region-specific Blocks
If you live somewhere like China, Iran, or Pakistan, you may find accessing a lot of the best online retail sites is all but impossible. These governments block a wide variety of online shops that are otherwise freely accessible elsewhere. Equally, if you want to use online payment methods such as PayPal, you may also find access is restricted.
But a VPN can help to unblock all of these sites, including PayPal and other such online payment services. By connecting to an overseas VPN, it is possible to circumvent blocks put in place by oppressive governments and enjoy the open and free internet access that everyone is entitled to.
Best VPNs for Holiday Season Shopping
Online shopping sites get busy over the festive period, and having a fast connection can help you snap up that last item in stock before someone else does. And if you want a VPN which offers fast connection speeds, you simply won’t find a much faster provider than ExpressVPN. They offer super-fast and consistent speeds across their entire server network. With some providers, fast speeds can mean security and privacy compromises, but not ExpressVPN.
Their entire network is SSL-secured and features nigh-unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption. They also offer a kill switch as standard. ExpressVPN maintains a no-logging guarantee; being based in the British Virgin Islands means they are not legally required to retain any user data at all. Their huge server networks means you won’t find many websites that you can’t access, no matter where in the world you are. These features combined are why ExpressVPN is always a popular choice for the privacy-conscious online shopper.
IPVanish is one of the biggest VPN names on the market–and one of the best too. Their reputation is based in no small part on their top-notch security and privacy provisions, making them a great bet for online shoppers this festive season. Their encryption offers both L2TP and OpenVPN protocols using 256-bit encryption available as standard. In addition, they also offer users a few other nifty security features including a automatic kill-switch, which will cut your internet connection automatically if the VPN connection goes down, as well as built-in features which allows users to switch IP addresses periodically for extra online privacy.
If that isn’t enough to convince you of their merits, they also have privacy policies which are second to none, with one of the most comprehensive no-logging policies you’ll find anywhere. They have fast and consistent connection speeds across their comprehensive network of servers, which numbers more than 850 servers in 60+ countries around the world. This means no matter where you are, you should be able to access the online retailers you want to and the scope to make savings is high. You can use IPVanish on almost every device and each subscription offers 5 simultaneous connections, so the whole family can be protected while they buy each other’s presents.
If you want to try out IPVanish, we have a special offer which is exclusive to Addictive Tips readers! You can get a huge 60% discount on the yearly plan, which works out to only $4.87 per month. There’s even a 7-day money-back guarantee so you can buy in confidence.
NordVPN has been around a while, and is still popular thanks to their huge server network and great value-for-money service. They offer a huge network of servers, with 1779 servers available in 61 countries around the world. Speed can be an issue with some of these servers, but this is something NordVPN have taken great strides to address in recent years. Privacy is the real strong point for NordVPN too; they are based in Panama which means they can retain no user information whatsoever.
NordVPN offers 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN with 2,048-bit Diffie-Hellman keys as standard. They also offer a great range of additional security features including a kill switch and shared IP Addresses, as well as Double VPN servers (which twice encrypt your data and reroute it through two servers for extra protection), and Onion Over VPN servers (which redirect your online data through the TOR Network as well as a VPN for additional security). All of this is available at great low prices too, a cracking Christmas combination.
VyprVPN is the cheapest VPN recommended for online shoppers, but it still has plenty to offer. Like the other offerings on this list, they offer ultra-strong 256-bit AES encryption, as well as a handy kill switch feature. Privacy nuts will appreciate that they keep no logs as well. What really sets VyprVPN apart is their Chameleon protocol, which works to encrypt not online your data packets as they’re sent, but the metadata that some governments like China use to sniff out VPN users.
Like NordVPN, their connection speeds can sometimes be less than perfect, but they are also working hard to improve this aspect of their service. And with a network of more than 700 servers around the world, there are plenty of servers to pick from if you get a slow one. Overall, VyprVPN still has plenty to offer, especially to the price conscious online shopper.
Tell us which VPN you have found best to protect yourself while shopping online. Have you managed to save money by using a VPN to change location and get the best price possible? Are there any other tips or tricks you have used your VPN for this festive season? Leave your comments in the box below.