Next month promises to be the busiest so far for online retailers as more Christmas shoppers than ever shun overcrowded shopping malls in favour of buying gifts over the web.

New Zealanders have been comparatively slow to embrace e-commerce, but growth in the number of local retailers offering the service - such as The Warehouse, which finally launched an online sales portal this year - should encourage record numbers of us to shop online with our credit cards.

But what about the security risks of passing financial information across the internet? Lloyd Borrett, Australia and New Zealand marketing manager for IT security software vendor AVG has six tips to help keep online shopping safe.

1. Look for the "S" for security - make sure the websites you are shopping from are secure and have "https" in the URL when you are in their checkout/purchase process. The "s" ensures security. When you are in the secure section of a website, you will also see an icon for a locked padlock on your browser, either on the address bar or on the bottom right corner.

2. Stay current on security software - this means making sure you have the latest virus protection software updates from your security software provider.

3. Think before you link - use security software with a URL (web address) scanning tool to ensure you will be warned if you click on links that lead to web pages infected with dangerous malware.

4. Keep your private information private - when shopping online, create a separate email account that is just for shopping. Use a unique password, different from any other accounts you have. Your dedicated shopping email account should be in no way affiliated with your personal, everyday email account. Keep records of your online shopping - print confirmation pages and email confirmations.

5. Mix up your passwords - each shopping account, bank account, credit card account, and email account should have a unique password. Write them down and keep the information in a secure location. Unique passwords for each account make it tougher for a thief to steal your personal information.