Online Identity theft – Are we oversharing?

We spend so much of our time online these days. We shop online, consult online doctors, do our banking online, book our holidays online and do our tax returns online. There seems to be nothing that we cannot do at the click of a button and businesses often rely on the ability to work online, many being completely based on the internet, with virtual premises and systems. Whilst this is brilliant for our convenience in a modern world, it does mean that our personal data is out there, floating around cyberspace as we give our details out to everything from TV licencing, filling out tax returns, to ordering presents for Christmas.

More data and information is shared through our love of social media. I am a huge fan of social media, using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pretty much everyday. I am not ashamed to say that I use them all, both as a tool for sharing my work (and gaining more work) and also in a personal capacity. Facebook in particular is a way to keep in touch with friends and family who you don’t necessarily see all the time, to share photographs of Joe, and his milestones as he grows up. But are we putting ourselves in danger by our new obsession with over sharing.

Well, the answer is both yes and no. Online companies, and other companies who use the internet in some way are now taking our data, and its protection, very seriously. Companies collect data through master data management, with Microsoft’s Master Data Services becoming a preferred way of storing personal information – not just about the general public, but also about employees of said company. High levels of security have been put into place to monitor and restrict who is able to access and view our data which companies hold due to transactions and services. This is more reassuring than in the past, but our oversharing in other areas can still be a problem.

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This makes me giggle, but are we oversharing?

This makes me giggle, but are we oversharing?

Emails are a way that fraudsters can try to get us to give our personal details, and although Google is very good at filtering the spam from real emails, these spam emails still get through. As a blogger this has been a definite issue for me personally, with my email freely available on my blog for anyone who wants to try and make contact. This led to me removing my email from my homepage, there were just too many emails from cranks.

It got to the stage where I was getting email after email that claimed to be from my bank, or from Paypal, along with scores of emails about unclaimed vouchers and money I’ve inherited. Most of this was luckily filtered as spam, but some of it looks very plausible, and younger, more vulnerable people could well fall victim to it.

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Ultimately we need to be more vigilant ourselves when it comes to our data. We need to read the small print to see just how it is stored and used by the companies we give it to. The Data Protection Act of 2018 definitely improved matters, but you still need to look at whether you are ticking boxes to opt in or opt out. You have to carry some of that responsibility.

Strategies for Buying Online With Good Customer Satisfication

The benefits of online shopping are nothing to brush under the rug, but making purchases electronically can carry risks and can be a very different experience to shopping your High Street. However, you should be able to great deals, stay safe, and be satisfied with your all around experience.

Expect the best from the product and service

First of all, you should expect the same level of product and service when buying online as you when you buy from a store. The good news these days is that many companies are measuring their business in levels of customer success. Companies like User IQ explain this in terms of desired outcomes for business, with the ‘Desired outcomes representing what customers seek to do with your product combined with an adequate user experience.’ Many online businesses even us business software in order to measure this customer success, which could also be called customer satisfaction.

In short, you should be happy, not just with the product, but also with the ease of using the website, the delivery time, the way it was packaged, the courier used. Your whole shopping experience from start to finish.

Keep on Top of Security

 As Mike Homnick of PCWorld points out, basic techniques such as keeping your browser updated and installing a top-notch malware protection application can reduce the odds that a cybercriminal is successful with an attack. Additionally, check that you see a padlock icon in the url bar as you shop or make your payment to vendors through third-party sites, such as Paypal. This icon, along with https:// rather than http:// preceding the website address, indicates that the website is secured with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. Online payment services also can provide more protection in that they often allow you to transfer funds without giving the retailer your credit or debit card information, all while protecting you with unauthorised transaction coverage and monitoring for suspicious activity. Using only secured network connections and sticking to only well-recognised retailer applications are additional tips. Finally, find and verify the phone number and physical address information for the company you’re considering buying from, as the National Cyber Security Alliance recommends. Legitimate businesses readily supply this data to prove they’re valid enterprises, as well as to facilitate good customer service.

Internet Security

Insist on the Minimum

 Many great retailers ask you for a little more information, such as your email address, for niche marketing or customer service purposes. Some pieces of data, however, such as your Social Security Number, specific date of birth or driver’s license number, have no marketing or delivery value for a legitimate seller. If you can’t place your order by providing your name, address and credit card/third party payment option, be suspicious. The fewer fields you have to fill out, the better.

Be Willing to Compare and Research

 The online market is incredibly competitive. If you buy from the first retailer you see, you might miss finding a better price from another seller, especially when you take into account that some websites offer incentives like cash back. Take the time to shop around, and don’t forget about options like coupons, which can reduce your bill even if your primary seller isn’t offering a deal. As you compare vendors, read as many reviews as you can, not only about the product you’re interested in, but about the sellers themselves. Aim to use only retailers that have satisfaction rates of 99 or 100 percent during the process, and check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to be absolutely sure the good reputation you’re seeing is valid.

Keep Documentation

Documentation such as confirmation emails or transaction numbers can assist with refunds, exchanges or other problems. Terms and conditions, price pages and product descriptions also fall into this category.

Assume a Return

Although you hopefully won’t need to return what you order, never buy anything online unless you’re aware of the seller’s return/refund policy. Many vendors won’t take back products without receipts, return numbers or original packaging.

Conclusion

 Online shopping can be a convenient way to get what you want or need, provided you take steps to protect yourself. Simple strategies greatly reduce the chances you’ll have a bad experience and of your marking your experience a customer success.

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Sparkle and Shine Indeed! Nativity The Musical

Christmas came to Wolverhampton tonight, and whilst it may be slightly early, I couldn’t feel more festive if I tried. Because if you are looking for a show that is the epitome of feelgood, family entertainment, then you must see Nativity the Musical, which is delighting audiences at the Wolverhampton Grand. I went to see the show last night and was totally enchanted by a show that has so much heart and warmth. In the words of my fave Christmas song, it Sparkles and Shines from start to finish.

You may remember Nativity from the Martin Freeman movie that has become a bit of a Christmas classic, but for those who haven’t seen the movie, Nativity is the tale of three childhood friends who all go into acting but fail in this chosen career. The two male actors, Mr Maddens and Mr Shakespeare, become primary teachers in two very different schools, whilst Jennifer, who is also the girlfriend of Mr Maddens, pursues her dream of working in Hollywood, leaving Maddens one Christmas. Maddens and Shakespeare get into a deep rivalry when it comes to the annual Nativity performance, both seeking a five star review from local reviewer Patrick Burns, with only Shakespeare, working at the exclusive Oakmoor School, getting it. Despondent over the loss of Jennifer, and the humiliation of the  St Bernadette’s nativity, Mr Madden decides he hates Christmas. But when headteacher Mrs Bevan decides that the school is going to have another try at the nativity, and that Mr Maddens is going to be in charge, things start to catapult out of control. Add into the mix the arrival of the loveable, but slightly crazy Mr Poppy as his new classroom assistant, and you have all the ingredients for a Christmas disaster.

Nativity is a total joy, not least because of the joyous performances. The leads are just wonderful, with Scott Paige a standout as Mr Poppy, playing the role with the childlike exuberance it needs. His Mr Poppy isn’t just ‘down with the kids’, he is a real child-man, and is totally delightful, and so easy to fall in love with as a result. Scott Garnham, who I loved in Billy Elliot, plays Mr Maddens as a perfect foil for the energy of Mr Poppy he adds balance and pathos to the piece, particularly in the scene where he reads the letters the children have wrote for Santa. Ashleigh Gray as Jennifer is also very good, particularly in the scene where she sings the poignant ‘Jennifer’s request’, whilst Charles Brunton is hilariously funny as Mr Shakespeare, who is almost a perfect pantomime style baddy, I loved his over the top rendition of ‘Herod the Rock Opera’ which is frankly hilarious and terrifying in equal measure. Love Island’s Dani Dyer is a surprise addition to the casting, but works really well as Polly Parker, bringing her trademark warmth and personality to the role of the studio head with a heart.

But as good as all those central performances are, it is the children who are at the heart of Nativity, and totally steal the show. Forget all ideas of the stage school kids that can be frighteningly professional (and slightly scary if I’m honest), the children of Nativity are adorable, totally melting the hearts of even the hardest critic. The warmth and exuberance of their performances feel totally real and natural, and each and every one of them just shine. There could not have been an audience member who didn’t have a lump in their throat during the poignant, heartfelt ‘Dear Father Christmas’ whilst the songs of the ‘Nativity’ itself are alive with humour and sass. By the time the curtain falls, after the incredibly catchy ‘Sparkle and Shine’. they have the audience on their feet, totally believing they have witnessed the rebirth of St Bernadette’s.


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Nativity is a total delight, a must see for anyone with a love of musicals, the underdog, and, of course, Christmas. Just Fabulous for all ages, you leave the theatre ready to put your Christmas tree up and hang those decorations.

 

 

Nativity the Musical

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

31 Oct – 02 Nov 2019

 

Click here for ticket information.