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

The Reign of Spain? Riskiest Vacation Destinations for Hacking Mobile Devices

If you’re heading overseas this popular vacation month, don’t underestimate the risks of your smartphone, tablet or other portable devices being hacked…even when visiting countries not typically associated with cybercrime. True, the U.S. leads all popular vacation destinations in overall mobile threats, where hacking of files and data on hand-held devices occurs about 5 million times per year, according to Keeper Security, a Chicago-based password manager firm. (Previous research by Symantec, which makes Norton antivirus products, indicates the riskiest American …

Don’t Get Burned by Solar Eclipse Scams

With sky-high anticipation over the upcoming solar eclipse on Aug. 21, there are plenty of opportunities to get burned — visually and financially. According to NASA, the only safe way to watch it is with special solar-viewing glasses (also called eclipse glasses) or handheld filters. Available for as little as $2 each for paper-frame models that resemble movie theater 3-D glasses, these are not sunglasses but have lenses with specially designed filters to safely watch the first total eclipse from …

5 Ways to Spot Skimmer Scams Before You Use an ATM or Gas Pump

Skimming fraud has been around for more than a decade, and continues to evolve. Today’s skimmers – illegal card-reading devices placed on ATMs, gas pumps and other public-area machines that process debit cards – are stealthier and more sophisticated than ever. These devices “skim” information from the card’s magnetic strip as a nearby hidden camera, also placed by skimming scammers, records the PIN that you enter. Although you get your cash or can make a purchase – none the wiser …

Rigged Carnival Games: Are You Being Played When Playing Midway Classics?

Heading to a summer carnival or state fair? Don’t worry so much about looking foolish carrying an oversized stuffed teddy bear en route to that funnel cake feast. The bigger concern should be in feeling foolish after dropping a wad of cash trying to win that plushy prize, but winding up with empty hands and pockets. Although not every carnival game is rigged, all can be and many are – making those near impossible to win in hopes you keep …

“Smishing” Self-Defense: How to Prevent Trouble That Comes in Text Messages

Each day about 20 billion text messages are sent to 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. Most of these texts are opened within three minutes, and many within a few seconds. The massive number of text messages and their rapid-fire response rate (by comparison, only one in four email messages are opened within 10 minutes of arrival) amount to an unbridled opportunity for fraudsters exploiting the du jour device for deception: the handheld computer that also happens to make phone calls, …

Don’t Be a Scam Mark When You Park

There are many routes to a ripoff, including several schemes that can occur when you park your car: Fake fines. A longtime ruse, phony parking tickets have resurged in recent months. The “classic” con involves windshield-left violations that appear authentic. Thanks to inexpensive hand-held printers, scammers can produce on-the-spot thermal printouts that look like actual tickets produced by police-used machinery, either standalones or placed in brightly colored envelopes, purchased online, like those used by some law enforcement. Motorists who receive …