TORONTO -- The holiday shopping season kicks into full gear with Black Friday later this week and Cyber Monday a week from today.

If you're shopping online you have to be careful you don't get a surprise and end up paying more for items than you thought you would have to.

"There is a definite sticker shock with a lot of people when something comes across the border," said Sean Morrison, Superintendent, Canada Border Service Agency’s (CBSA) Postal Operations. 

When you shop online, some items you buy could be coming from another country and along with taxes and shipping you could also have to pay duties and brokerage fees. 

Try to do you homework and ask questions before you click so you don't end up with unexpected charges.

CBSA said online shopping has surged during the pandemic and it’s seen a 117 per cent increase over the past three years in the shipments it deals with. 

A duty is a tariff paid on an item imported to Canada and CBSA is reminding Canadians when items cross international borders into Canada there may be duties added to the final price tag. 

Morrison said don’t assume purchases from web addresses ending in dot ca means the goods are shipped within Canada. 

The agency is also reminding Canadians that receiving or sending cannabis into or out of Canada by mail or courier is illegal and you could be arrested and prosecuted.

"While it may be legal to purchase cannabis in Canada within our own borders you can't send it anywhere and you can't import it" said Morrison.

When it comes to lower value items $20 and under are duty and tax free. Above $20 duties and taxes may apply and gifts worth $60 or less must be sent by friend or relative. 

Duties will vary depending on the item and where it's from, but there are ways to determine if you'll have to pay extra. 

"If it wasn't made in Canada or in the U.S. or Mexico duty applies to it, so be prepared that you may have to pay that plus taxes on top of the price” said Morrison.

If you're not sure if you have to pay duties the agency's website has a duty and taxes calculator.

You enter where you live, the item you're buying, it’s cost and where it's being shipped from and you'll get an estimate of the duties and taxes.

Canadians can also benefit from recent changes under the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), which raises Canada’s duty-free level from $20 to $150. Anyone ordering eligible items online shipped by courier from the U.S. or Mexico with a total combined cost above $40 and up to $150 will be duty free, but taxes will still apply.

Eligible items total value under $40 shipped by courier will be duty and tax free. Shipments above $150 both duties and taxes will apply. However, this exception is only for private courier companies and not for those who use Canada Post.

The agency also wants people to know threatening scam calls are being made from criminals claiming to be with border services that are not legitimate. 

"We will never call someone to let them know there has been a seizure and we will never call someone to let them know there is an arrest warrant, those are scam calls and unfortunately they are prevalent right now" said Morrison.

Supply chain issues are also causing backlogs and some goods remain stuck on container ships so the border agency is advising shoppers to do their holiday gift buying early to avoid delays.