Frank Abagnale spoke at this morning’s Dillon Lecture Series at Hutchinson Community College. He is an author and consultant for security, and also the subject of a movie, Catch Me If You Can, where he is played by Leonardo DiCaprio. It is based on a book he wrote detailing his life story.
At age 16 he ran away from home, and began to commit various crimes of fraud in order to bankroll his life. He traveled all over the world, impersonating a Pan Am pilot, then pretended to be a doctor. Needless to say, it was an interesting time in his life.
No one associated with the movie has ever met him, but he was happy with the product. He mentioned Spielberg said he didn’t want to make the movie to glorify what Abagnale did during those years, but what he has done since then.
At age 21 Abgnale went to prison. Five years later they let him out if he agreed to serve the rest of his term working for the FBI to prevent document fraud, forgery and embezzlement. He remained at the FBI for decades after he was obligated to, and said today he still sees the years of fraud as shameful. He has turned down three pardons from three sitting presidents and credits his wife with changing his life.
During the luncheon, he spoke about security and said credit cards are the safest form of payment one can use. Something really interesting is that he said many kids get their social security numbers stolen because there is no credit reporting for people under 18.
He believes that punishment for fraud and recovery of stolen funds is so rare that prevention is the only viable course of action. He has authored several books, and has many free products on his website about how to protect yourself.