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Inspiration for Film "Catch Me If You Can" Talks with Oregonians about Fraud

Frank Abagnale, above, was the inspiration for Leonardo Di Caprio's character in the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can." Today, he fights fraud for groups like AARP. (Experian Day/Flickr)
Frank Abagnale, above, was the inspiration for Leonardo Di Caprio's character in the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can." Today, he fights fraud for groups like AARP. (Experian Day/Flickr)
September 30, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – In the 1960s, Frank Abagnale posed as an airline pilot, a doctor, an attorney and more to commit fraud, and later inspired Leonardo Di Caprio's character in the 2002 thriller, "Catch Me If You Can." So, who better to give advice on how to avoid fraud, identity theft and scams?

Over the last 40 years, Abagnale has advised the FBI as an expert on forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents. Last night, he spoke to a Portland audience on behalf of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. He said it isn't a bad thing to question the motives of a stranger who calls or emails asking for money.

"There's nothing wrong with being a little skeptical," Abagnale said. "I can be conned; I am well aware that someone could take advantage of me. But if someone does, I'm going to go to the police and I'm going to tell my family what happened. Unfortunately, a lot of elderly people are scammed and they lose $5,000, $10,000, and they don't want to tell their family members."

Abagnale said it's best to let people know when you've been scammed to help prevent it from happening to someone else.

Abagnale also said people also should hang up as soon as they hear the recording of a robo-call start.

"If you stay on the phone and listen to the pitch, they're going to call you back and they're going to sell your number," he explained. "If you immediately hang up the phone, the computer records how long you're on the phone. If you're on there a couple of seconds, they're not going to call you back and they're not going to sell you on a mailing list."

He described three popular scams right now. First, callers pretend to be from the IRS and say you owe back taxes. Second, a call or email claims to be from Microsoft, claims your computer has malware and the scammer asks for money to fix it or access to your computer, then steals your personal information. And last, the caller poses as local police officer and said you need to post bail for a grandchild. Abagnale said the best protection against scams like these is to educate yourself.

"You just want to be a little smarter, a little wiser," he added. "Take a second to verify. It only takes a minute to do that. Be a little skeptical, that's a virtue, that's nothing bad, and we could put a little dent in people committing these crimes."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR