You may recognize the name of this guest from the movie called “Catch Me If You Can.” He wrote the book about his life. Since then, for four decades he has been advising the FBI on how to outsmart the bad guys and has written three other books. Today he runs Abagnale and Associates where they develop new procedures and create manuals and educational programs utilized by over 14,000 financial institutions, law enforcement agencies and corporations.
Mr. Abagnale was named AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador in 2015. In that capacity, he launched a “Watch Your Wi-Fi” safety campaign which was created to educate people on the best practices for public Wi-Fi use and how to keep yourself safe when using them.
The AARP has created a free Fraud Watch Network that allows you to beat con artists at their own game by giving you access to the latest scam alerts delivered right to your inbox and tips to prevent and access to expert resources. You can also download their free e-book, “Protecting Yourself Online for Dummies,” which will help you to bank and shop safely, create the best and most secure passwords, use social media safely and protect yourself from identity theft.
You can sign up here: https://action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FWN_Registration_Page.html
Although he is now one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery and identity theft, Mr. Abagnale was once a master at stealing identities, as depicted by the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can, starring Leo DiCaprio. After cashing in millions in fraudulent checks, getting caught and serving jail time, he switched teams and for four decades has been advising the FBI on how to outsmart the bad guys.
Frank W. Abagnale is one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents. For over 40 years he has worked with, advised and consulted with hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and government agencies around the world. Mr. Abagnale’s rare blend of knowledge and expertise began more than 45 years ago when he was known as one of the world’s most famous confidence men. This was depicted most graphically in his best-selling book, Catch Me If You Can, a film of which was also made, directed by Steven Spielberg with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Apprehended by the French police when he was 21 years old, he served time in the French, Swedish and U. S. prison systems. After five years he was released on the condition that he would help the federal government, without remuneration, by teaching and assisting federal law enforcement agencies. Mr. Abagnale has now been associated with the FBI for over four decades. More than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations, and law enforcement agencies use his fraud prevention programs. Mr. Abagnale was named AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador in 2015.
Mr. Abagnale is known as one of the world’s most respected authorities on check fraud, embezzlement, and secure documents. He has developed new procedures and created manuals and educational programs utilized by over 14,000 financial institutions, law enforcement agencies and corporations.
Mr. Abagnale lectures and instructs extensively at the FBI academy and field offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He conducts over 100 domestic and international seminars each year for his clients with the single objective of instructing attendees on how to reduce their exposure to fraud, forgery, and embezzlement.
Today, the majority of Mr. Abagnale’s work is for the U. S. government. His company does not sell products or provide services with the exception of his public speaking engagements which are handled through Keppler Speakers (www.kepplerspeakers.com) in Washington, DC.
Mr. Abagnale is the author of “Catch Me If You Can,” “Stealing Your Life,” “The Art of the Steal,” and the “Real U Guide to Identity Theft.”
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.
Frank Abagnale Airing Date: September 3, 2016
Craig Peterson: Welcome back to Tech Talk with Craig Peterson. We talk a lot about security here on the show and we’re joined right now by someone who knows a lot about it from both sides of the law. We’re joined right now by Frank Abagnale. He has been very busy here. Wrote some books including Catch Me If You Can, which of course they made into a movie. Stealing Your Life, The Art of the Steal, and The Real You Guide To Identity Theft. We’re gonna talk a little bit about what you can do, what you should be careful of in order to make your life a little bit safer and more secure. Hey Frank, welcome.
Frank Abagnale: Thank you.
Craig: So let’s talk a little bit about this. You started out in the opposite side of the law if you will. You were a con man and you had kind of been self-taught, right? You learned all of these yourself?
Frank: Yeah, I was just a runaway at 16 years old and ended up in the streets in New York and realized I had to survive so I became a little creative and unfortunately got into some trouble and was arrested. When I was 21, I spent 5 years in prison. When I was 26, the government took me out of prison to work with the FBI and I’ve spent the last 4 decades working with the FBI. And I’ve had this over my career the opportunity to work with banks and corporations and financial institutions. But up until a couple of years ago, when AARP invited me to come and help them deal with crimes against consumers, I found it was really interesting and worthwhile thing to do to actually teach people how to protect themselves, both on the internet and about crime in general. But the telephone, over the internet, through the mail, etcetera. And that’s why we go out and try to educate people and give them the proper tools to protect themselves with.
Craig: Well Frank it’s come a long way from the day where you kinda self-taught. Today where we have criminal organizations, some of them backed by countries in fact, who are trying to get at our information. They’re trying to break in. They’ve been successful. Look at the hacks recently. And people are concerned. I just had a message come in this week in my insider line, where a lady was getting calls at home and she was confused. And I’ve received them. I had 8 calls right in a row, supposedly from Mrs. Harrison at the IRS. These are getting more sophisticated. These hacks, these attacks, the spam. And I’m glad to see what the AARP is doing here with the fraud watch network. They have a lot of information. A lot of stuff available online. As people are out and about, obviously, don’t answer the phone and give your information out to a stranger. What kind of tips can you give us Frank?
Frank: Ok, first of all, back to that. When you get a phone call, even though it may say on your phone that it’s the IRS calling, that doesn’t mean that it’s the IRS. It’s very simple to manipulate. You wanna make sure that you understand that the IRS does not make phone calls. If they wanna contact you they write you a letter. There’ll be a file number on it. Usually that scam is just to say to you that we’re the IRS, you owe back taxes, if you don’t pay them in 24 hours they’re gonna put a lean on your property, a lean on your bank account. That’s not gonna happen. You’re not gonna get an email from Microsoft to say that there’s malware on your computer, we need to take over your computer. If you allow them to do that, they’re gonna steal all the information on your computer. Your records, your financial records, your photos, and then they’d wanna ransom them back to you. You just have to be a little smarter and pick up the phone and verify that information. One of the things we did is we ran a survey out to see how many people in public Wi-Fi actually go and check their credit cards, check their bank accounts and we’ve found that 70% of people actually in the survey go to Facebook, they look at sensitive emails, and they go to do actually, 33% of them actually, do banking on there, they look at their credit card transactions, buy things over there. We remind people that Wi-Fi, public Wi-Fi is not private. So that if you’re in a coffee shop or in the airport, you shouldn’t be checking bank information, you shouldn’t be wiring money. You shouldn’t be purchasing things with your credit card. And the safe thing to do is to just go to your settings and take your auto-connect to Wi-Fi off so that you don’t forget about it and go to the airport and pick up a fake network or pick up a legitimate network and do something you wouldn’t normally do and give out information you shouldn’t do. So, we created a simple website AARP.org/watchyourwifi, and you can go there and get these simple tips and you can also watch videos to see how people actually steal that information in a public setting. We found that education is the powerful tool to fighting crime, so if we can just tell people how to protect themselves, people who are smart enough to go out and do it. They just need the information and the tools to do it with.
Craig: Frank, the thing I hear again and again is people saying that they don’t need to… well maybe they should worry about it, but there’s not much they need to do about it. And that includes businesses because they seem to have a… no one’s gonna want my information, no one’s gonna attack me. Why would someone want to use the open Wi-Fi network to go get into my computer or my cellphone?
Frank: It’s as simple as me getting your name, social security number, date of birth. If I had those 3 pieces of information, I can get credit in your name, I can buy a car in your name, I can get a mortgage in your name, I can get a job in your name, or I can ultimately commit a crime in your name. I can get medical services in your name under your insurance. If I can become you, what I can do with you is only limited to my imagination. So, anybody can be a victim and you shouldn’t be ashamed if you are a victim. I could be victimized tomorrow. I could be scammed tomorrow. I’m aware of that. But being aware of that and being a little smarter and being a little wiser goes a long way from people taking advantage of you, and you’re right. If I’m a corporation, or an insurance company, or a government agency, I have the responsibility to keep the information you gave me safe. You entrusted that information with me. I should have the proper technology, which is available and does work, in place to keep people from breaching into my system and stealing that information. So, yes. We all have to do our part to keep everybody safe. But we can’t rely on the government, we can’t rely on the bank, we can’t rely on the police to protect us. We have to be a little smarter and go to websites like AARP.org/watchyourwifi, which is giving you for free, there’s nothing to sell, simple tips that you can easily remember so you can do it yourself and know how to protect yourself.
Craig: You mentioned a couple of things people should not do when they’re on Wi-Fi, like check their bank account, credit cards, and other things because it can be intercepted. Their information can be stolen. Are there other things that AARP has on the side or other tips how can I then, keep my information safe? Do I have to do everything in the office or everything at home?
Frank: You just need to learn about how to protect yourself and one of the great things about AARP.org/watchyourwifi or the Fraud Watch Network is it’s absolutely free. You don’t have to be a member of the AARP. There’s just a great deal of information there. You know, in my career of 40 years, that was one of the most difficult things I wrote books because I couldn’t find anybody… not a government agency, not a private entity that was giving out information to consumers to how to protect themselves. 20, 30 years ago, we saw a lot of public service ads. We saw bank statements stuffers with tips about protecting yourself. We don’t see that anymore. So I think this is great that AARP is taking on this initiative through the Fraud Watch Network, to always give people the most current information about protecting themselves. There’s an 800 number you can go to if you feel you’ve been victimized so they can walk you through it and tell you what steps to take. So I would encourage everyone to simply just go to AARP.org/watchyourwifi. Pick up those tips. And if you go to the Fraud Watch Network at AARP, you can get a whole bunch of information about telephone scams, internet scams, mail scams, sweepstakes scams, grandparent scams, you name it. There’s a great deal of information there, it’s free. Take advantage of it. Learn how to protect yourself.
Craig: They also, at the Fraud Watch Network, have a sign up, so you can give them your email address and they’ll keep you up-to-date on the newest scams. Obviously, that’s not a scam. You can find it all online at AARP.org. We’ve been speaking with Frank Abagnale, who is been talking a little bit about what is going on out there in the world from a security standpoint. Frank, anything else you’d like to add?
Frank: Just have people out there to remember that if you make it easy for someone to steal from you, it’s unfortunate, but somebody probably will, so just don’t make it easy.
Craig: Alright. Thanks again for your time today.
Frank: Thank you.