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
He conducted a similar program yesterday in Jacksonville before
an estimated audience of 600 law enforcement, banking, court and
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,"
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,
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. …