Frank Abagnale - The Art of the Steal

I had the great fortune to hear Frank Abagnale speak last week. Yeah, that's the guy who inspired the Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can.



Abagnale started the presentation with his personal story. Sobering and full of pathos; I don't remember it being as dark in the movie. While his cleverness at the art of the con at age 16 was entertaining and often humorous, his personal despair at the breakup of his family and remorse over his criminal actions were the overwhelming emotions I walked away with. He feels guilt to this day and has turned down three Presidential pardons.

It was also a powerful story of the preservation of the two parent family and the importance of teaching children lessons in morality. He presented many studies showing the shift regarding the latter. Short story, kids today don't consider things "wrong" as previous generations have. For example, cheating in school is considered no big deal by a growing percentage of youth over time. Sad.

Then he got in to the meat of his lecture. The topic was called The Art Of The Steal (one of his books) but he took material from his other tomes, too.

I tell you what, he scared the crap out of me.

He talked about identity theft and how easy it is to perform in so many ways. I agree with him that we've all had our identities stolen by now, either through our own carelessness or the carelessness of the institutions holding our data. An especially depressing point was that business is responding better to the threat than the government. Significantly. Sigh.

The section on check and wire manipulation had my colleague and I both taking notes. I'll never think about the USPS mail drop off box in the same way as he explained that skimmers swing up to them right before pick up time and use some simple, but effective, tools to pull out a bunch of mail to go through later.

Abagnale offered some simple solutions to decrease your risk. I jumped online and ordered a micro cut paper shredder for my home. The cross cut one that many think is safe is not. I also ordered uni-ball 207 gel pens for everyone on my team. The ink from that specific pen permeates the paper and can't be lifted or manipulated. And, when we retire our company's copy machines, you can bet we'll be pulling the hard drives and destroying them first. I won't, however, give up my debit card even though he highly suggested doing so.

You can check out the Publications page on his website to read more details on his recommendations.

If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, grab it. I know it's going to stick with me for a long time.

Comments

Miz Mouse said…
I shred everything with my name on it. My shredder is only a cross cut but I run my hands through the bucket of paper and mix it all up before dumping it in the trash. I also peel the labels off my prescriptions and soak them in bleach water so you can't see what they are or who they are for. My building backs onto an alley and people are going through the trash and recycling bins all the time.
That's a great tip about the pens and the mailbox.
In future I will walk the two blocks to the post office to mail my bills.
Miz Mouse said…
I shred everything with my name on it. My shredder is only a cross cut but I run my hands through the bucket of paper and mix it all up before dumping it in the trash. I also peel the labels off my prescriptions and soak them in bleach water so you can't see what they are or who they are for. My building backs onto an alley and people are going through the trash and recycling bins all the time.
That's a great tip about the pens and the mailbox.
In future I will walk the two blocks to the post office to mail my bills.
Cheesehead said…
Great precautions! Be sure to put your mail in the inside drop off at the USPS. He was actually talking about the drive through drop offs on USPS property. So bold. Jerks.
Pammy said…
I met him and heard him speak years ago (probably 1979-80 or so) when I worked as a photo-journalist for a SMALL town newspaper. He is fascinating! Waaaay back then, he told us that they were working on a movie about his life. When years went by and no movie, I just assumed we were all scammed once again by this genius (yes, I consider him a genius, even though everything he did was illegal)....and then "Catch Me if You Can" came out.

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