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

As Debit Card Theft Hits 20-Year High, How Safe Is Your ATM?

While breach-fatigued retailers work to reduce the theft of their customers’ plastic-payment data, scammers have turned their focus to stealing card details at the ATM. During the first four months of 2015, stealing debit card info at automated teller machines hit a 20-year high, reports credit score firm FICO, which also monitors roughly two-thirds of America’s debit cards. Compared with the same period in 2014, skimming attacks increased threefold at ATMs not located at banks and 174 percent at on-branch …

Don’t Get Soaked With a Flood Car

If you’re car shopping, you can live hundreds of miles from the type of flooding that recently ravaged parts of Texas and still get soaked. Each year tens of thousands of cars are damaged by floods to the point of being deemed a total loss by insurers; yet more than half wind up for sale, often on distant dealer lots, reports vehicle-tracking service Carfax. After insured owners are paid off, these so-called flood cars are hauled to a salvage yard, where they are supposed …

Why Your Kids Are Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Concerned about identity theft? Be even more concerned for the young children in your life. From cradle to college, kids under 18 are 51 times as likely to be victims of identity theft than their parents, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab. This alarming statistic is based on a sampling of some 40,000 children — and 10 percent already had their Social Security numbers being used fraudulently. “There’s no process to double-check what name and birth date …

Let the (Home) Buyer Beware

Looking to buy or sell a home in the coming weeks (a period that’s expected to be the busiest real estate season in eight years)? If so, beware of a new impersonation scam that targets real estate agents and others involved in house closings — specifically, their clients. It starts with an email to real estate agents (supposedly sent by an interested buyer) that includes an attached link. When the recipient opens the link, malware secretly infects the individual’s computer, …

Hackers Guzzle Your Money via Starbucks Mobile App

Starbucks devotees, prepare for a jolt beyond what’s provided in those morning cappuccinos: Hackers are draining financial accounts of customers who use a Starbucks gift card or mobile app to pay for coffee. The (no latte pun intended) skinny on this scam: Thieves hack victims’ online Starbucks accounts, via the users’ weak and/or overused passwords or credential-stealing malware, to access linked payment accounts – credit and debit cards, PayPal and bank accounts. This allows them to add a new gift card, …

The Passcode to Hack Most Credit Card Readers

About 90 percent of checkout payment card readers, like those implicated in last year’s string of retailer data breaches, currently use the same password. Reason: The default setting hasn’t been changed – either by its manufacturer, middlemen vendors or retailer clients that purchase the devices. That’s the stunning conclusion after researchers from cybersecurity firm Trustware examined point-of-sale (POS) card readers at 120 retailers nationwide. “No one is changing the password when they set this up for the first time; everybody …