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

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Prevent Scams

Pledging to drop pounds might be the most popular New Year’s resolution, but consider adding these 10 simple steps to reduce your risk of scams in 2015 and beyond: Get your credit report – three times a year. Only about 1 in 6 Americans check their credit reports annually with each of the three credit bureaus, and 1 in 4 check with only one bureau, AARP has found. Bad move, since everyone is entitled to three freebies per 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s …

Personal Scams, Not Data Breaches, Are Real Cons of 2014

While some 750 documented data breaches and the hacking of 160 million personal and business and government payment records dominated the news in 2014, the prime calling cards of scammers trying to steal your hard-earned money were intimidation and fear. Here’s how the scams work: IRS Impostor Scam: In what officials had already called “the largest scam of its kind” in March, scammers continue to pose as agents of the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department in live and automated …

Ho-Ho-Hoax: Top Seasonal Job Scams

Want to generate some extra cash these days? So do scammers pitching these hottest job hoaxes of this holiday season: Mystery Shopping: True, you can earn about $20 per shop applying for opportunities with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association or at stores, but don’t pursue unsolicited emails or phone calls promising big money as a “secret shopper.” Those are the work of scammers who send phony checks with instructions to deposit them and then wire-transfer back a portion. What happens …

6 ‘Other’ Credit Card Protections

Think you’re safer paying with cash? Not always. For instance, holiday shopping means mall pickpockets are on the prowl. Despite reports of data breaches at retailers including Target, Home Depot and others, don’t shelve your credit cards just yet. Compared with debit cards, you’ll have fewer hassles and less liability should your card be used fraudulently. For certain purchases, credit cards are better than debit cards and cash because of other, lesser-known protections. These policies vary by card type and provider, so ask about your specific coverage: Extended return policies. Many retailers …

Fa La La or Fraud? Sneakiest Holiday Scams

The toppers to scams that prey on holiday shoppers: Watch out for these sneaky seasonal ploys that continue to prove their success at getting a quick buck or sneaking malware onto devices for longer-lasting fraud. Bogus Charities The season of giving is a peak time for taking. Top cons aimed at older donors allege help for police, firefighters, veterans and children, so be on guard for phone calls with heartstring-pulling scripts. Also beware of sound-alike organizations of well-recognized legitimate charities, such as …

Season’s Cheatings! Get Wise to Holiday Shopping Scams

Black Friday has kicked off the official holiday shopping season, so here’s a rundown of the most common scams aimed at shoppers — and how you can avoid them: The name game Scammer-run websites use the names of popular items and retailers to steal credit card and password information or deliver malware. You’re led to them when you do online keyword searches, including terms like “discount toys.” >> Top Seasonal Scams to Avoid Search away to compare prices, but before you click …