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NH Gets Debit Card, Check Warnings from Former Scammer

He was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movies, and now "Catch Me If You Can" scammer turned identity-theft expert Frank Abagnale says Granite Staters need to be careful about check writing and debit card use. Courtesy: J Bulen/AARP NH
He was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movies, and now "Catch Me If You Can" scammer turned identity-theft expert Frank Abagnale says Granite Staters need to be careful about check writing and debit card use. Courtesy: J Bulen/AARP NH
October 12, 2015

LEBANON, N.H. - Frank Abagnale, FBI identity theft expert and former scammer portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie "Catch Me If You Can," and now an AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador.

A world-renowned former scammer turned identity-theft expert has some tips for Granite Staters on the best way to avoid ending up the victim of identity theft and fraud.

Frank Abagnale was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie "Catch Me If You Can," and says New Hampshire residents can take some simple steps to avoid becoming a victim of identity thieves.

One tip you might not expect concerns check writing. He says don't write too many because merchants also often require you to disclose key information when they take a check.

"Anyone who sees the face of that check can draft upon your bank account, they can wire money out of your account, they can order checks with your account number on them," he says. "So, I don't get over-paranoid, I write a check to pay the mortgage, I write a check to pay the insurance company. I'm just very careful who I write a check to."

Abagnale was just in New Hampshire giving a talk on scam prevention at the Lebanon Opera House.

If you ask Abagnale what kind of plastic he keeps in his wallet, he is rock solid on the answer. He only uses credit cards, because he says they protect consumers from fraud. He says he does not have a debit card and wouldn't let his sons get one either.

"When you use a debit card, every time you take it out of your wallet you are exposing the money in your bank account," he says. "If they steal it, they're stealing your money. And, if you used it for the next 50 years, you wouldn't raise your credit score by one point; it does nothing for you. So, for a lot of young people, they use it for a few years in college, they come out and get a job - and they can't even get an apartment because they have no credit."

He says it's important to build your credit rating with reporting agencies and also to check in regularly with those agencies to help detect scams. Abagnale has been an identity theft expert for the FBI for 40 years and is now an AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH