Frank Abagnale visits Huntsville to share tips on spotting scams

His exploits were depicted in the movie “Catch Me If You Can”
Published: Jul. 18, 2019 at 6:35 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Who better to protect you from criminals than a former con artist?

Frank Abagnale, a leading identity theft expert, came to Huntsville on Thursday to teach others how to avoid scams and protect their families from fraud.

For more than four decades, he’s advised the FBI on how to outsmart con artists.

His story is one you’ve probably heard of. It was made into a movie called Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I ran away from home when I was 16 years old and ended up in New York City. I impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor in a Georgia hospital, a lawyer in Louisiana. I wrote about $2.5 million in bad checks,” Abagnale said.

Apprehended by the French police when he was 21 years old, he served time in the French, Swedish and U.S. prison systems. After five years, he was released on the condition that he would help the federal government, without remuneration, by teaching and assisting federal law enforcement agencies.

At the age of 26, he started working with the FBI, which he’s done for 43 years. He’s one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery, embezzlement and secure documents.

He’s an expert on the subject of identity theft, has written three books on the subject and served as a consultant to some of the largest companies in the world on the subject of cybercrime.

Abagnale has joined forces with the AARP Fraud Watch Network and AARP Alabama.

He says no matter what the scam, there are two red flags to look for.

“At some point someone is going to ask you for money- they want you to send them to money. Go to Walmart and get them a Green Dot card, wire them money, Apply pay some money, use Venmo to send them some money. Or they’re going to ask you for information- what’s your bank account number, what’s your social security number, what’s your date of birth,” Abagnale explained.

Kathy Stokes, AARP Director of Fraud Prevention Programs, says scammers steal from thousands of people every year to the tune of billions of dollars.

“It can be financially devastating, and emotionally devastating. With the Fraud Watch Network, our aim is to get the message of prevention out there. We want to help people understand how to spot a scam so they can stop a scam,” she stated.

“You have to be a wiser consumer today than you did 20 years ago. So all I ask people to do is stop and verify.Whether they say they’re from social security, the IRS, wherever is. You didn’t solicit the call,” Abagnale added.

Abagnale’s presentation is Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Jackson Center on Hudson Alpha’s campus.

The free event is full, but there is a wait list.

You do not have to be an AARP member to attend but registration is required at

If you suspect a scam or want to report one, or if you have been victimized, you can call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360.

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