How much has the internet changed the way we shop? Nearly $1 in every $10 we spend on retail goods is now spent online, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. That percentage has nearly doubled in just the last five years. But even as we become more and more comfortable with the process, experts warn the internet is still fraught with risks.
"Most online shopping scams are essentially ordering a product and never receiving the product, so you've paid money and you've received nothing in return," said Melissa Trumpower, director of programs and operations at the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, the educational arm of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
She said some of the most common items involved in scams include pets and pet supplies, cosmetics, clothing and health care.
Then there is the counterfeit eyewear sold online by New York businessman Vitaly Borker, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to running an $18 million scam, only to continue running the scheme from prison, as well as after his release in 2015. Borker pleaded guilty to three additional fraud counts in March.
But Borker went beyond just selling knockoff glasses. Some customers never received their orders even though their credit cards had been charged. Those who dared to complain or ask for a refund found themselves on the receiving end of exorbitant "restocking" or "cancellation" fees. And if they objected, things got even worse.
"Right after I sent that last e-mail saying I didn't want to pay that cancellation fee, my cellphone rang," New York customer Maura Selneck told CNBC's "American Greed." "He started insulting me as soon as I answered the phone. He proceeded to call me a f---ing valley girl, telling me that I was just a stupid b----."
In Boston, customer Shonnett Sisco became concerned when the designer glasses she ordered arrived without a promised certificate of authenticity. When she sought to return them, Borker demanded a $50 restocking fee, to which Sisco objected.
"He stated in an e-mail to me that he was giving me the finger," she told "American Greed." "I stated, 'God bless him," because in my mind he was just a miserable person. And then he just started calling me a Jesus freak."
Sisco eventually paid the fee, but Borker would not let up, e-mailing her at all hours.
"Then he started stating that he knew where I lived, and I was just terrified," she said.
Maura Selneck tells a similar story.
"He told me I shouldn't have f----ed with him because he has all my personal information and my credit card information. He said, 'You don't know who you screwed with. I'm going to get you.' By the time I got off the phone, I was in tears, shaking," she said.
While most of us can look forward to perfectly uneventful online shopping experiences, experts say it is important to take precautions against the likes of Borker.