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Learning From the Best to Avoid Scams

While scams have been around for years, there is very little public information on how to avoid getting ripped off. Picture by Jerry Oster.
While scams have been around for years, there is very little public information on how to avoid getting ripped off. Picture by Jerry Oster.
September 24, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - For more than four decades, Frank Abagnale, a former con artist, has advised the FBI and other law enforcement agencies on how to outsmart con artists. He now has joined the AARP Fraud Watch Network to help consumers avoid getting ripped off. Abagnale says honest people get scammed and there isn't a lot of information out there to help them.

"You can't con a criminal because a criminal that knows is going to see the scam coming," he says. "But an honest person doesn't have that deceptive mind, so unfortunately they know that these scams work over and over again. And there is very little out there in the public domain where people can go and learn to protect themselves."

Abagnale took part in a presentation sponsored by AARP-South Dakota last night in Sioux Falls, talking about scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Abagnale says there are some steps he takes to avoid losing control of his identity.

"I do shred everything, because what you think to be worthless is of great value to someone else," he says. "I do use a credit-monitoring service to monitor my credit and alert me in real time if anybody is attempting to use my information. I don't write a lot of checks in today's environment. If I go to a grocery store or drug store and write a check for $9, on the check is my name and address, my bank's name and address, my account number at that bank, my routing number."

Abagnale says another good tip is to use a credit card for all purchases, and avoid waiting for a rebate if there is a problem, such as recent data breaches at major retailers.

"Everyone who had a debit card waited an average of two to three months to get their money back," says Abagnale. "That was their money at their bank account where they were being investigated. Everyone who used a credit card in those stores just simply got a brand new card in a couple of days and that was the end of it and they had zero liability, so it's the safest form of payment you can use to totally protect yourself from having your money stolen from you."

Between the ages of 16 and 21, Abagnale posed as an airline pilot, an attorney and a doctor and cashed millions of dollars in fraudulent checks. His story was told in the movie "Catch Me If You Can."

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD