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

Back to School? Parents, Be on Guard for Student ID Theft

With the kids returning to school, you’ve earned a sigh of relief. But don’t breathe too easy just yet. From elementary through high school, students are 51 times more likely than their parents to be victims of identity theft. College students are ideal (and common) targets — and when hit, they lose more money and take longer to discover their identity theft than any other age group. And with forms, dorms and other threats, a new school year is especially …

10 Tips to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

En español | When you access the Internet at any of the world’s 6 million public Wi-Fi hot spots — at airports, parks, businesses, hotels, wherever — assume that anything you are sending or receiving is up for grabs: your emails, photos, files, passwords, credit card numbers. According to some estimates, up to 95 percent of public hot spots are insecure because their wireless networks do not encrypt users’ Web traffic. Without encryption, which scrambles data so it’s not accessible …

Watch Your Wi-Fi! Most Devout Users Are Clueless About Risks, AARP Finds

Although some 84 percent of American adults who use the Internet access it on a daily basis, new AARP research finds that many continue to engage in risky online behaviors — especially at free Wi-Fi hot spots that are potential hotbeds for computer hacking. While a quarter of the 800 adults surveyed for the new report said they use free public Wi-Fi at least weekly, most are clueless about the potential risks. And nearly half of the respondents flunked a …

Airline Ticket Scams Take Flight on Facebook

Airline ticket scams are flying high once again. In recent weeks scammer-run campaigns on Facebook have spoofed several airlines – including JetBlue, Virgin, United and Delta – in promising free flights (and with Delta, merchandise and cash prizes, too). Don’t be fooled. The airline “names” change frequently; Southwest and Australian-based Qantas were imitated four months ago in similar schemes, and most of the current victims have been falsely implicated in past “free ticket” scams. In other words, by next week …

Ransomware: $18 Million and Counting … in Only 15 Months

Catherine Heslep was logging off Gmail when her computer was hijacked, another victim of ransomware. “Your files have been encrypted,” the message on the screen proclaimed. “You will not be able to access them without an encryption code.” “The cost for the code was 60 bitcoin, which translates to $700,” she says. Getting no response, the cybercriminals issued another ominous warning the next day: “If you don’t believe us, pick five files and we’ll decrypt them to prove it. You …

10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft When Traveling

Planning summer vacation has its headaches. But enjoying it can cause the migraine of identity theft. Being from out of town means being out of your element – and makes you more vulnerable to scams. Here’s how to protect yourself. Stick with one credit card. Tourists are easier prey for sleazy store clerks and restaurant employees who capture credit card numbers with cellphone cameras or pen and paper and then make fraudulent purchases. If not paying with cash when traveling, …