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

2016’s Surprising Top Robocall Scams

Robocalls aren’t just annoying; increasingly, they are the initial contact that scammers use to get you. With autodialers that can blast millions of prerecorded calls per day, fraudsters simply program sequences of phone numbers — dialing X telephone numbers with Y area codes or prefixes over Z period. Follow the message instructions, or sometimes just say “Hello,” and you’re transferred to a live call center, where the hard sell begins. (Even pushing the keypad to supposedly “opt out of future …

Put the Bite on Zika Scams

With the start of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and peak mosquito season in much of the U.S., expect even more news about the Zika virus — ideal timing for frenzy-feeding fraudsters peddling scams such as: • Online offers for supposed miracle, dietary or natural products, or bogus personal-protection kits to prevent or cure Zika; • Emails with alarming messages touting must-read links that unleash computer viruses; • Investment opportunities from companies allegedly developing products to stop the spread …

iTunes Gift Cards the Latest Go-To Tool in Many Gotchas

The song remains the same: You owe back taxes and now face arrest or a lawsuit. Your grandkids are in trouble. Your computer has a dangerous virus. You owe a debt, missed mandatory jury duty or didn’t pay your utility bill. But there’s a new chorus in these and other scams: “Now pay me…with an iTunes gift card.” Why? Like other swindler-preferred payment methods (wire transfers and prepaid debit cards),  iTunes gift cards are a fast, easy and virtually untraceable …

Wi-Fi Safety When Traveling

Any time you use a public Wi-Fi hot spot, you risk having your internet communications intercepted by a hacker. When you’re traveling and your brain is focused on R&R or business meetings, that vulnerability can increase, especially in unfamiliar locales. The two primary Wi-Fi hacks are a “man in the middle,” who positions himself between you and your Wi-Fi connection to track your online movements, and a hacker-developed fake hot spot, known as an “evil twin,” that mimics the name …

Is Your Home Security System a Rip-Off Recruiter?

Statistically, your home is most likely to be burglarized between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during July or August. The typical intruder is male, about 25 years old, and looking for cash and easy-to-carry (and sell) items such as jewelry, laptops, guns, cameras and small electronics. He’s also watching out for evidence of a home security system. In addition, there are con artists looking for front yard warning signs and other indicators that boast protection. Home security scammers, also now …

Prize Lies: How to Spot a Sweepstakes Scam

True, you can’t win if you don’t play. But here’s how you certainly lose by entering a scam sweepstakes or lottery. • You’re instructed to pay a fee or buy something to enter, improve your chances of winning, or claim an already “won” prize. You will not only lose that money (what you purchase may be junk merchandise), but you will also likely face an onslaught of additional requests for supposed taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees — …