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

4 Surging Facebook Scams You Need to Avoid

These days, it may be wiser to use the phone rather than Facebook to communicate with your friends. That’s because of a fast-growing scam on Facebook Messenger that uses your friends to hack your account — and devices. Here’s how it works: You get a Facebook Messenger chat that appears to be from someone you know. In the most common campaign, the message will include your name, the word “video” and an emoji followed by a link — typically a …

Why Kids Are So Vulnerable to Identity Theft, and How to Protect Yours

Kids will be kids: Blabbing on social media. Eagerly completing prize-promising online surveys that ask for birth dates and other personal information. Downloading “free” online games and videos that may harbor malware. And through it all, using weak passwords such as pet names, school mascots and names of best friends that could double as security questions. Meanwhile, the system remains the system: Requesting, but not legally required, to have a child’s Social Security number on forms for doctor appointments, weekend …

Get Wise to These Common (and Costly) Student Aid Scams

In this new school year, parents of high schoolers face an age-old problem: how to pay for college. Considering that the bulk of available student aid is in the form of loans — currently, more than $1.3 trillion in sometimes crushing student debt is owed by 44 million U.S. borrowers — many turn a hopeful eye to snagging scholarships and grants that don’t have to be repaid … only to get blindsided. Each year, some 350,000 students and tab-footing parents …

New Rules for Password Protection

For more than a decade, we’ve been told to use “strong” passwords that combine upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Not only must passwords be long and complex, the mantra went, but a different password was needed for each online account – changed to another unique (and mind-numbing) letters/numbers/symbols combination every 90 days or so. Now, the man who originally developed those password rules in 2003 as official guidance for government employees says you should forget all that. …

There’s No Question About FBI ‘Questionnaire’ Email: It’s a New Ransomware Scam

The latest ransomware scam to seize control of computers and hold their contents hostage: an email with emblems of both the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that falsely demands completing an FBI questionnaire “required” by a new law on tax compliance. It looks like this:                   While it may appear official, it’s all a lie – an attempt to lure recipients to click on a link to access …

Post-Disaster Scams: Fallout Fraud from Hurricane Harvey (and Future Catastrophes)

After devastating parts of Texas with record rainfall in what the National Weather Service described as “beyond anything experienced,” expect a flood of Hurricane Harvey-themed fraud to continue…even after the waters recede. That’s because of what’s already been experienced after virtually every other major natural disaster: Scams that prey on those whose lives and homes have already been destroyed, as well as good-hearted strangers hoping to help from thousands of miles away. Here’s a timeline of what to expect in …