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

5 Pet Scams You Need to Know

The dog days of summer go beyond just rising temperatures – at least for pet lovers. Pet scams are also heating up, and here’s what you should know about the most common schemes: Dognapping Born during the economic downturn of recent years, dognapping involves stealing dogs from unattended backyards and cars - and, more commonly, even in the company of their owners. Some are then held for ransom. In one recent well-publicized case, surveillance video captured a dognapping in progress at …

Half of U.S. Adults Hacked: Are You Among Them?

In the past 12 months your personal information has likely been stolen, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. About 432 million online accounts belonging to 110 million Americans - roughly half of all adults - were hacked in cyberattacks during the past year, according to new findings by the Ponemon Institute, a data-collection research firm. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports estimates that some 11 million Americans fell victim to email scams in 2013. And in the first four months of this year, at least 260 …

Top Summer Travel Scams

As you look forward to a summer getaway, watch out for these common scams: Tricky tickets: Received a letter promising free or steeply discounted airline or cruise tickets? Read the small print – and between the lines – for words such as “eligible” and “guaranteed to win.” These mailers are often sent by vacation clubs as a lure to attend a high-pressure sales presentation where you’re promised huge travel discounts. The hook: You join by paying upfront fees that could approach five figures …

6 Places Never to Use a Debit Card

Credit or debit? Although both cards look the same, they offer different protections. Under federal law, if your credit card is used to make unauthorized charges after it is lost or stolen, you’re liable for only $50 - no matter the amount and with no time restrictions to report the fraud. And many issuers won’t even charge the $50 for valued customers. But with a debit card, you have just two business days to report an unauthorized loss or money transfer, or …

College Students: Ideal for ID Theft

If you have children or grandkids attending college, or about to graduate, it’s time to school them on the dangers of identity theft. Last year the Better Business Bureau deemed college students the “most at-risk” group for identity theft, and those in their 20s represented 1 in 5 of all victims (higher than any other age group), according to reports filed with the Federal Trade Commission. College students and recent graduates are often targeted because they’re ideal victims. Reasons: Many …