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Former Expert Scammer Gives Advice on How to Avoid Them

Frank Abagnale, inspiration for the 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can," now tours the country offering advice on how to avoid scams. (AARP)
Frank Abagnale, inspiration for the 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can," now tours the country offering advice on how to avoid scams. (AARP)
November 15, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – Immortalized in the film "Catch Me If You Can," Frank Abagnale has long since left his days of scamming behind – and now offers advice on how to avoid fraud.

Over the past 43 years, Abagnale has advised the FBI as an expert on forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents. Last night, he joined forces with the AARP Fraud Watch Network to speak in Portland.

Abagnale says the distance that modern technology creates between scammer and victim makes it even easier to commit fraud than it used to be.

"Today, you're dealing with somebody in their pajamas with a cup of coffee on a laptop in their kitchen in Moscow,” says Abagnale. “They're thousands of miles away – in India, Moscow, China. They don't know you, they'll never see you. The victim never makes any emotional contact with them, so there really is no compassion – and they'll steal everything you have."

Abagnale notes millennials actually are more likely to be scammed, but older generations lose more money because they tend to have more. He says education about how to protect yourself against fraud is the best tool to fight it.

With the holiday season coming up, Abagnale says charity scams are ramping up, and folks should check with the Better Business Bureau if an organization they don't know calls and solicits money.

Another popular hoax is the "grandparent scam," when a caller poses as a local police officer and says you need to post bail for a grandchild. If you've been scammed, Abagnale notes it's important to let someone know.

"You need to report these things,” says Abagnale, “not feel embarrassed that someone took you, because anybody can be scammed, including myself. But if you are scammed, you need to tell somebody, so that something can be done about it – or they'll go on and scam somebody else."

He says that means reporting the scam to their state attorney general's office, or contact AARP if they would like to know what their next steps should be.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR