Former criminal shares tips to avoid becoming a victim of financial fraud

Local News

Financial fraud is an issue everyone must guard against, especially in light of the data breach at Equifax. Local 5’s Kris Schuller spoke with a nationally known fraud expert, a man immortalized by the movie “Catch Me If You Can.”

For Frank Abagnale, life today involves the speaker’s circuit, discussing financial fraud and his ongoing work with the FBI.  Yet 50 years ago he was a con man.

“I impersonated an airline pilot for a couple years, doctor in a Georgia hospital for a little while,” said Abagnale.

And writing a lot of bad checks.

“I went on to write about $2.5 million in bad checks before I was old enough to drink,” said Abagnale.

Eventually arrested – Abagnale was offered a shortened sentence to work for the FBI. His story was later made into the movie – “Catch Me If You Can.”

“I was very fortunate with Steven Spielberg who made that movie. He loved the redemption side of the story. He loved what I did with my life afterward and he wanted the world to know that,” said Abagnale.

Still associated with the FBI, Abagnale is considered an expert on guarding against fraud. Wednesday talking to customers of BMO Harris Bank.

“He took his talents and skills and flipped it the other way to help the U.S. consumer and businesses,” said Travis Froze, the bank’s regional manager.

So we asked him how to protect ourselves in light of the data breach at Equifax, where hackers stole personal information of 145 million people.

“That’s their name, social security number and date of birth,” Abagnale said.

He says a credit freeze is a must and credit monitoring the next step.

“They are letting me know if anyone is attempting to use my name, social security number to get a job or open a bank account – so it is absolutely worth it,” said Abagnale.

He says also shred personal documents, avoid writing checks and always use credit cards over debit cards.

“As long as I make payments with a credit card and I buy things with a credit card I have zero liability,” Abagnale said.

It’s advice he shares – after years on the run – to anyone who’ll listen.  

“It is just amazing when I look at my life, what I do today versus where I came from.”

Tips to avoid being taken by criminals – like the man he once was.

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