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On June 3, 2011, Childs called the Seattle Police Department and told detectives that a friend of his named Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif was interested in attacking a military installation in Tacoma, Wash.

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Here's how the scam typically unfolds: You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft or Windows tech support, who says viruses have been detected on your computer.

In order to protect your data, you are told to immediately call up a certain website and follow its instructions.

A dummy screen may appear that shows viruses being detected and eliminated, but in reality malware is being installed that allows the scammer to steal your usernames and passwords, hold your data for ransom or even use the webcam to spy on you. "Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls," says Courtney Gregoire, senior attorney at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.

En español | According to a survey by True Link Financial, older Americans are criminally defrauded of .76 billion annually. Subscribe to the AARP Money Newsletter for more on work, retirement, and finances The next scam victim could be you. Abagnale, a long time FBI consultant whose early life as a con artist was portrayed in the film "Catch Me If You Can," equates it with playing roulette. But AARP Foundation's Amy Nofziger, who has degrees in criminology and sociology, cites three additional reasons. "They'll use the same methods legitimate marketing companies do, but for nefarious purposes." 2. "If you've been a victim of a fraud or scam, you're put on a so-called sucker list," Nofziger says.

This includes identity theft and all those crazy scams you hear about but smugly think will never work on you. Here's what to watch out for in the new year and, most important, how to protect yourself. "The lists are bought, sold, traded and stolen among scammers because they're perceived as potential gold mines.