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

What You Need to Know About 2014’s Top Scams

When fraudsters cook up a new scam, they typically use the same recipe: Start by establishing a connection with the target, be it through sweet talk or intimidation; mix in feigned credibility or authority; then turn on the heat to trigger emotions for an “Act Now!” response. For icing on the fake, add a dash of modern technology. Alone or collectively, these ingredients proved successful in the past year. Consider the ranking order of the Top Scams of 2014, which the Better Business Bureau …

4 Valentine’s Scams to Avoid

Libelula Roja was looking for love… She thought she found it on Match.com, which quickly moved to Instant Messenger. “He said he was an engineer living in Florida, with his own business, and the father of a son. He wrote perfectly — no ‘scammer grammar.’ He seemed ideal.” Within two weeks, “Robert Miller” had hooked Roja, a hospice worker in California, with declarations of love, promises of a life together and a request for money to help secure a job contract in Cairo. …

Census Scams: Hard to Detect, Easy for Fraudsters

Although this con is not as well known as other government impostor schemes, posing as a U.S. Census Bureau worker gives crooks a distinct advantage, thanks to the legitimate American Community Survey (ACS). Unlike the “big” population census that occurs every decade in years ending in zero, the ACS is ongoing, providing data each year to help determine how $400 billion in federal and state funding is distributed. Along with the expected — age, sex, race and education — it includes some …

Prep for Safe Tax Filing … and for Scammers

There’s good reason — several, actually — why Monday kicks off Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. As the tax-filing season gets under way for 2014 returns, the Internal Revenue Service faces massive budget cuts while two widespread tax scams continue. In addition to the epidemic IRS impostor scam, in which scammers pose as agents of that agency or the U.S. Treasury Department to extort supposedly “owed taxes,” there is another threat in the coming weeks: early filing of bogus tax returns to …

Weight-Loss Scams That Lighten Your Wallet (Not Your Scale)

The new calendar heralds a return to the most popular New Year’s resolution — to lose weight. Yet despite the $2.5 billion a year spent on weight-loss products and services, the only result for many is a lighter wallet. Through most of the past decade until 2011, when the Federal Trade Commission classified complaints by “product category,” more people were defrauded buying supposed “miracle” supplements and toning creams, “easy” exercise gizmos and “breakthrough” diets than any other type of products. To spot the …