As spending kicks into top gear for the Christmas rush, consumer experts are warning credit card users to be wary of grinches pilfering their accounts.
According to Paymark, which monitors electronic spending in New Zealand, spending in the lead-up to Christmas increases by as much as 75 per cent for certain stores.
On average, spending will be up 55 per cent in the week before December 25, compared to the first week of November.
But with the extra spending comes added risk. Financial research and rating company Canstar says credit card fraud can accelerate drastically in December.
Canstar New Zealand national manager Derek Bonnar said fraud was "big bikkies for thieves", who were especially likely to target credit card transactions completed over the phone or online.
He said banks and card providers were doing their best to reduce the incidence of credit card fraud through the introduction of security measures such as "3-D security", where shoppers enter a password registered with their card provider at time of purchase.
But the onus was also on consumers to take care with their personal details, he said.
"Simple steps may save you from being fleeced and then going through the time-consuming rigmarole attached to the recovery of funds and authorisation of a new card."
David Tripe, director of Massey University's Centre for Banking Studies in Palmerston North, said credit card fraud happened more often during the festive season as credit card use increased.
"The extent to which it happens at Christmas time is very much a reflection of people pulling out cards that they haven't used in a while.
"Christmas is a time when people do more shopping . . . and people who use credit cards less often are sometimes less practiced at being careful with them."
Tripe said people could be "sometimes careless" with their credit card details even though they knew the risks.
"Everybody knows how to keep their details safe, but do they? Not always."
He recommended that shoppers keep their personal information under wraps, and take advantage of any security measures available.
Credit card safety:
Take up all security measures on offer from your card provider.
Shop with trusted and well-known online merchants, such as Amazon or Book Depository.
Check out sellers' feedback when buying from auction sites like Trade Me or eBay.
Keep receipts and check your statements regularly.
The higher your credit limit, the more potential for damage.
Contact your bank straight away if you suspect something is wrong.