Forger Shares Secrets Con Man Tells How to Foil Criminals

By Stepzinski, Teresa | The Florida Times Union, September 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

Forger Shares Secrets Con Man Tells How to Foil Criminals


Stepzinski, Teresa, The Florida Times Union


WAYCROSS -- Frank W. Abagnale was a thief. A very good one.

A master forger and con artist, Abagnale cashed more than $2.5

million in phony checks in the United States and 25 other

countries for five years, beginning when he was 16.

He also masqueraded as an airline pilot, pediatrician,

prosecutor, stockbroker and professor before being caught when

he was 21 by French authorities.

Abagnale, now 50, has served time in French, Swedish and

American prisons. After five years behind bars, he was released

on probation when he agreed to help the FBI and other law

enforcement agencies catch white collar criminals like himself.

On Tuesday, he taught about 60 Southeast Georgia prosecutors,

court officials, police, bankers and retail merchants a few

tricks of his former trade at a two-hour seminar at Waycross

College.

He conducted a similar program yesterday in Jacksonville before

an estimated audience of 600 law enforcement, banking, court and

business officials.

Abagnale said check forgery is the No. 1 white collar crime in

America, followed by embezzlement.

"White collar crime costs every man, woman and child in the

United States at least $500 a year," Abagnale said. "Everyone

pays for it in the form of higher prices and fees."

But residents and retailers can take steps to protect

themselves from check forgers and embezzlers, he said.

"Fraud prevention is the only viable solution, and awareness is

99 percent of fraud protection," he said.

"One of the easiest ways to get one of your personal checks is

steal it at bill paying time and take it out of your mailbox

when you put it out to be collected by the letter carrier,"

Abagnale said.

That kind of theft can be prevented, he said, by mailing bills

directly at the post office.

Another forger favorite: Offering to do yard work for a bargain

rate but not so cheap that the homeowner can pay cash. The

amount will be high enough so the homeowner has to pay by check,

Abagnale said.

Once the thief has the check, he can alter it to a higher

amount, and use the personal information printed on the check to

order new checks and have them sent to his address. …

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