Sid Kirchheimer, author of "Scam-Proof Your Life" and more than a dozen other books, covers consumer and health issues for AARP Media.

The Real Costs of Free-Cruise Scams

If a Caribbean cruise sounds tempting right about now, consider an even more seductive lure: a “free” cruise. But before responding to winter-timed TV commercials, mailed postcards and unsolicited phone calls, consider the real costs of touted “freebie” two-night Bahamas getaways pitched as a “special promotion” or “prize” you’re already eligible for.   Your money. To reserve your cruise (or even to get information about it), you’re asked for your credit card and immediately billed up to $65 per passenger …

Do’s and Don’ts to Prevent Romance Scams

True love may be priceless, but searching for it can cost dearly. Among the top-grossing swindles worldwide, romance scams netted fraudsters nearly $2 billion in 2016 (roughly the same amount generated by legitimate dating websites) and a new victim every 48 seconds. The most pursued and prized target: American women over 40 — usually divorced, widowed and/or disabled — who are looking for love or companionship online. Typically working from boiler rooms in Africa or Russia (though some are independent), …

New Utility Impostor Scams

No disrespect to Punxsutawney Phil, but here’s a more realistic winter forecast: When it’s cold outside, utility company impostors turn up the heat — angling for your money. The biggest scam is the longtime shutoff swindle, which is reaching record levels this season in some parts of the country. Posing as local utility company personnel, fraudsters call homeowners and small-business owners, claiming that their gas or electric account is delinquent and that service will be shut off within hours if …

New Uptick in Government Scams Post-Election

Donald Trump won’t be the only one to shake things up. With a new president in the White House, scammers have fresh and convincing opportunities to take aim. Some schemes related to Trump policy and promises that you should expect, especially in coming weeks: Grant scams. Whenever there’s a change in government leadership, there’s an increase in government aid scams. Reports to our Fraud Watch Network Helpline (877-908-3360 toll-free) have increased noticeably since the Nov. 8 election, says Amy Nofziger of AARP …

How Scammers Try to Steal Your Tax Refund

Tax season starts Monday, the first day the IRS is accepting electronic tax returns for 2016 — and opening day for the latest round of tax refund scams. That’s when crooks file fraudulent returns to collect tax refunds under the identities of legitimate taxpayers — living or dead. All they need is your name, Social Security number, birth date and a computer. No W-2s or other tax documents are required to e-file; information such as claimed income, taxes paid and …

Weight-Loss Scams: How to Really Lose

Millions of Americans start each January pledging that most popular New Year’s resolution, to lose weight. Some succeed with the proven strategy and simple math — burning more calories than they consume. Many lose in other ways. Billions of dollars are spent each year on bogus weight-loss products and programs — cleanses, creams, pills, potions, powers, exercising gizmos and “secret” diet regimens — that promise fast, safe and lasting results but only lighten consumers’ wallets, if not risking their health. …