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

Why and How College Students Are Scammed

College students are ideal victims for identity theft, with clean or nonexistent credit histories ripe for exploitation … and often clueless about their risks and value to scammers. They are more likely to post birth dates and other personal nuggets on social media that can be pieced together by Facebook-trawling identity thieves, and to use public Wi-Fi for risky online shopping, banking and email. They’re also more apt to open links touting free music and games (that actually hide computer …

Spring Cleaning for Scam-Proofing

Spring cleaning shouldn’t end with a yard sale or Goodwill drop-off. Here are some seasonally appropriate sprucing tips to reduce your risk of identity theft and other fraud. Wallet. Clean it of what you shouldn’t be carrying. These include your Social Security card (unless you’re heading to an SSA office), cheat sheets with PINs or passwords for bank cards or online accounts, spare keys for your home or car, and blank checks. Unless you’re heading to a doctor or health …

FTC: Impostor Scams Surpass ID Theft (but Debt Collection Remains Top Complaint)

More Americans last year complained about scammers playing an identity — most often, that of an IRS or other government official — than stealing theirs. In its 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said impostor scams surpassed identity theft for the first time, becoming the second most common category of consumer complaints. Debt collection remained the top consumer gripe, generating 859,090 complaints (28 percent of the total) — more than the combined …

Puppy Scams Return!

How much is that doggy on the computer screen? With a recent resurgence in the longtime Puppy Scam, it’s costing some pet-seekers thousands of dollars and heaps in heartbreak. That’s because they fall for an adorable pup pictured online — on Craigslist, Facebook or a website supposedly for a reputable breeder — that’s advertised “for sale,” adoptable for free to a loving home, or in response to their own “wanted” posts seeking a pet. Problem is, there is no animal. …

Shelter From the Sneakiest Real Estate Scams

Scams are a reality of real estate. Whether buying, selling or renting property, here’s what to know about some of the sneakiest schemes: Closing cons It starts with hacking the email accounts of real estate agents to steal details about clients and closing dates, often by tricking agents into clicking malware-infected links supposedly sent by a potential client. Scammers then follow with phone calls or other emails — posing as that agent, a title company, real estate attorney or the …

The Real Costs of Free-Cruise Scams

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