10 Dumbest Things to Do Online

Trying to get scammed? Engage in these stupid but common online practices and the smart money is that you likely will. 1. Falling for emotional bait. Online and otherwise, scammers line their pockets on your emotions — greed, fear, curiosity — and often fuel each with “Act Now!” urgency. Offers of easy money and threats of negative consequences phish for your money and/or personal information. Promises of forbidden photos or links, especially with terse “Check this out!” messages, are used to install …

Is a Credit Freeze for You?

To freeze or not to freeze? It’s a common question, particularly after reports of yet another breach of payment card data like those at Home Depot, Kmart and Dairy Queen. The answer: Probably yes — but not because of those kinds of breaches. Certainly a credit freeze (also known as a security freeze) is a great way to proactively prevent identity theft and is advised for past victims of this crime who are likely to be targeted again. But it’s not foolproof and, …

Staying a Step Ahead of the Bad Guys

By Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director An identity thief with just a few bits of information about you can max out your credit cards, raid your bank account, even mortgage your house. In this digital age, a criminal can literally become you financially and take over your life. Alice Lipsky (not her real name) did this all the time. Using both high-tech computer skills and low-tech methods like car prowls and stealing purses, she took on the identities of …

Fall Fallout: It’s Time for Front-Door Fraud

Home may be where your heart is, but for scammers, it’s where the money is. They come knocking every autumn with these top perennial ploys: 1. Magazine sales. Consistently ranking among the top scams victimizing those over 60 (but targeting whoever answers the door), it goes like this: Fresh-faced teens sell overpriced magazine subscriptions for a fundraiser. Some fraudulently pose as students, others unknowingly work for scammer-run fronts trying to make a quick buck and/or collect credit card data for …

Dangerous Search Terms Beyond ‘Jimmy Kimmel’

Jimmy Kimmel got laughs last week after being named 2014’s Most Dangerous Cyber Celebrity. According to online security firm McAfee, one in five searches of Kimmel’s name landed Internet surfers on pages that “tested positive” for online malware threats. What’s no joke: Once again, cybercrooks have proved that people’s appetite for entertainment feeds their chances at hacking success. Why? “Celebrity names, coupled with the terms ‘video’ and ‘picture,’ are some of the most-searched terms on the Internet,” explains McAfee chief privacy officer Michelle …

AARP Finds ID Theft Higher Than Believed, Simple Preventions Ignored

New research by the AARP Fraud Watch Network finds that identity theft may be occurring at twice the rate previously believed, and the reason may be simple: Many Americans continue to ignore simple, everyday, low-tech steps that have been proved to help protect their personal and financial information, such as locking mailboxes, removing ID theft-worthy items from unattended parked cars and regularly shredding sensitive documents before disposing of them. Many also fail to take other easy measures, including securing smartphones and regularly changing …