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

Free Government Money? Uncle Sham Is Back!

Lucky me. Turns out I’m entitled to receive $3,200 in “free” government money. The reason, the caller explained: “Because you always file your IRS taxes on time.” Problem is, the named benefactor of that “specially selected federal grant” doesn’t pay his taxes because he doesn’t exist. Yes, the scammer dialed my actual phone number, but it’s listed under a fake name in public directories specifically to spot telephoning tricksters and Do-Not-Call no-goodniks. And like my phone directory pseudonym, unsolicited “free government money” is just …

Spring Clean Your Identity Theft Risks

Spring cleaning should include more than decluttering your garage and closets. Take these simple steps to reduce your risks of identity theft: Shred — don’t just trash — unnecessary documents with your name, birth date, address, and account or Social Security numbers. Typically, bank deposit slips and ATM and credit card receipts should be shredded as soon as the transactions appear on statements, credit card statements within 45 days, and pay stubs and medical bills after one year. Never simply discard …

The 411 on Two-Factor Authentication

In an era in which online accounts can be cracked with sophisticated software or a hacker’s ingenuity, taking an extra step when you log in can give you miles in added protection — even when using “strong” passwords. It’s called two-factor authentication (2FA), and it requires both something you know (like a password) and something you have (like a cellphone). Once enacted, after you successfully log in to an online account, you receive a code to your phone, via text …

Don’t Fall for These Mystery Shopping Scams

As unsolicited emails, phone calls and mailed letters (often with fake checks) continue to recruit victims in mystery shopping scams, fraudsters have widened their net to the popular networking website LinkedIn. The MSPA-NA (formerly known as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America) recently issued a warning that at least one member, IntelliShop, has been spoofed in this new ploy. The truth: MSPA-NA members do not send out unsolicited messages about mystery shopping opportunities on LinkedIn or elsewhere. Get …

Are You Scam Savvy or an April Fool?

This week, Hump Day is more than just Watchdog Wednesday. Being April Fools’ Day, when better not to be fooled by common scams of the season. Take this quiz to gauge your gotcha-avoidance know-how (answers at the bottom): 1. After you file your tax return, the IRS telephones, asking that you verify submitted personal information. How should you respond? A. Hang up. B. Provide the requested data. 2. Bathing-suit season beckons, and advertisements promise that a miracle supplement drops pounds fast — with a …