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Former Con Man Advises AR Seniors How to Avoid Scams

Former con man Frank Abagnale with the AARP Fraud Watch Network teaches seniors how to avoid being taken by scam artists. (AARP Arkansas)
Former con man Frank Abagnale with the AARP Fraud Watch Network teaches seniors how to avoid being taken by scam artists. (AARP Arkansas)
November 15, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Internet and telephone scams are on the rise, and a former con man is teaching Arkansans how to avoid them.

Frank Abagnale spent much of his youth conning money from doctors, lawyers and businesses, and has spent the last 40 years helping the FBI track down scammers. On Tuesday, he spoke to seniors and others at an AARP Arkansas event on how to avoid becoming a victim.

He warned that just because the person on the phone knows a lot about you, it doesn't always mean they are on the up-and-up.

"They get a great deal of information today off of social media. It gives them instant credibility with the person receiving the call, so it sounds very legitimate and very real,” Abagnale said. "But I always tell people I live by two simple words, and that is: Stop and verify."

Abagnale, now an ambassador for AARP's Fraud Watch Network, said technology has made it easier for con artists to run a scam. In many cases, he said, telephone or email scams can sound or look legitimate and contain a lot of personal information. Their goal is usually to either steal your identity or get you to send money.

Abagnale warned that scammers can pretend to be a grandchild needing emergency money, an IRS agent, a tech support representative offering to "fix" your computer, or try any one of dozens of other schemes to frighten you or gain your confidence.

"Red flags are always two simple things: It has to be immediate and, of course, you have to send money,” he said. "So, every scam is based on those two elements."

Abagnale, whose exploits as a con man were made famous in the 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can," said when things just don't add up, seniors should calmly check out the information.

"The only way you really solve all this is, one, you educate people about it so they know about the scam. But then you tell them that's the point when you stop, and you need to call,” he explained. "We have access of so much information, it's easy to stop and verify whether these things are real before you give any money."

To find out more about avoiding scams, go to the Fraud Watch Network website.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR