FBI warns of holiday scams targeting West Virginians

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV) — It's the most wonderful time of the year for online thieves.

The FBI warns people to stay vigilant this time of year when those criminals are working around the clock to get your information and money.

The FBI warns Virginians and West Virginians to stay vigilant this time of year when those criminals are working around the clock to get your information and money.

John Large is a Supervisory Senior Resident Agent with the FBI.

"People have money this time of year, people are saving up, so criminals are figuring out ways to get to that money," Large said.

He says the FBI sees an increasing number of scammers targeting social media sites, smartphone apps and online shoppers.

As technology improves, so do scammers' creativity.

"The reason scams are out there is that they still work," Large said.

The FBI warns against posting pictures to social media of event tickets you get for yourself or a friend this holiday season. Large said scammers are able to recreate the ticket and resell it with only its barcode.

Also, if you shop online this season, make sure your purchases come from websites you're familiar with instead of suspicious third-party sites.

Thieves are also targeting the inboxes of consumers with emails aiming to swipe your data and cash.

"If you didn't ask for the email, it shows up in your inbox, you click that link, you may have just downloaded malware to your computer," Large said.

More and more, scammers are turning to gift cards as a form of payment. They're easy to convert to cash, Large said, and hard to stop the scammer before it's too late.

"By the time you figure out you've been scammed, the gift card is empty," Large said.

If you see an email that looks too good to be true, it probably is, Large said. That includes everything from a free Caribbean vacation to offers for free gift cards.

If you fall victim to crime online, submitting a report to the FBI is simple through its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

More than 1400 complaints have been filed by West Virginians since January, according to the IC3 database. That totals $10 million in losses.

But the FBI estimates only 10% of victims actually file a report so the could be higher.

One of the best things you can do to stay vigilant this time of year, Large said, is to keep track of your purchases.

"Check your credit card statements frequently," he said. "If you notice anything that's out of alignment with what you've purchased, make sure you contact your credit card company immediately."