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 …

1 in 4 Didn’t Notice ID Theft for at Least 2 Years. Would You?

Identity theft is fast-moving. Are you asleep at the wheel? The sooner ID theft is discovered, the easier it is to repair the damage. And yet, 1 in 4 people did not know they were victims until at least two years later, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). That’s more than enough time to destroy your financial life and start a new one on your dime. Sixteen percent of 201 people from 39 states who contacted the ITRC in …

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 …

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 …

Cheapskate Answers to Your Money Questions

When you write about personal finance for a living, lots of folks ask for your advice about their own money issues and problems. That places me in a difficult position because, while I’d like to help, in many cases there are just too many variables when it comes to offering good financial advice to people I barely know. And then there’s the “How dare you!” factor. That’s especially common when you primarily give advice about the spending side of people’s finances, …

Tips for International Travel

Two back-to-back international trips this year — to Germany and South Africa — gave me a good reason to brush up on my world-traveler skills. Here are the main things I think about when I’m planning a trip abroad. Phoning home. How I am going to communicate? I mainly use Skype. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make international calls. There are similar applications for phones, including Viber and WhatsApp, that allow you to text, call and send photos and …