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

The Hidden Costs of Free Trials

Burn fat, grow hair, or remove wrinkles while you sleep. Earn thousands a day working from home. Learn about “secret” government grants that are yours for the asking. The promises are priceless – and so are the products, quite literally. Or so you’re told. But the common outcome of free trial offers: After providing your credit card for a small shipping and handling charge, your plastic may be bombarded with recurring charges that quickly add up. Reasons: It’s not uncommon …

3 Sneaky Schemes That Scammers ‘Bank’ On

Phone calls claim there’s a problem with your bank account or credit or debit card. Some allege you qualify for a lower-interest-rate credit card because you’ve been such a good customer. And the newest trick: telling businesses that their card-swiping machines aren’t working right and credit card transactions must be made by phone. But it’s scammers delivering such unexpected news – not legitimate financial institutions they profess to represent, which most recently include Bank of America, Barclays, and scores of …

Protect Your SSN, and Be Thankful It’s Not 078-05-1120

Seventy-nine years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, birthing that most important government program and, as a result, a coveted prize of identity thieves: your Social Security number. You know why you need to guard your SSN like an amped-up Rottweiler: In the wrong hands, it’s the quickest and arguably most common way for an ID thief to pose as you to open credit accounts and get medical care, your tax refund, even a job. …

How to Avoid Robocall Scams

At least one of every five phone calls now made is a robocall, and many are the work of scammers. You may hate these automated annoyances, but scammers love them: They’re cheap, far-reaching and hard to trace. No surprise that the Federal Trade Commission receives some 200,000 complaints about these calls each month. Here’s what you need to know: 1. If they’re selling, assume they’re scamming. Fraudsters may tout “free” in their recorded messages, but ask yourself this: Since when …

Another AARP Spoofing Scam Surfaces

Robocalls continue to falsely claim that AARP is providing “free” medical alert devices (I got one just yesterday, with a displayed caller ID number belonging to a local swim club), and now there’s a new ruse faking the AARP name. This time, live representatives claim to be calling on behalf of “AARP Member Advantages,” asking you to “verify” personal information based on the lie that it’s a requirement of the U.S. government if you want to continue participating in AARP-related services …