If you saw the movie Catch Me If You Can, you know of Frank Abagnale, fraudster turned FBI expert. He will speak on how seniors can avoid becoming fraud victims at an AARP Pennsylvania event at Valley Forge Casino Resort on Tuesday.
Once one of America’s most famous con men, Abagnale provided the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent fast on his heels.
After going to prison, Abagnale began working with the FBI, banks, and consumer agencies to help companies and citizens learn to spot scam artists like he once was.
“I cover all the scams currently out there,” including cryptocurrencies and electronic fraud, said Abagnale. He runs the security consulting firm Abagnale & Associates, which works with clients such as LexisNexis, Intuit, and Experian. He also speaks around the country on identity theft, cyber crime, and fraud.
“Believe it or not, millennials are scammed more often than seniors, because they give out their information so freely. They give out their birthday and their place of birth, and that’s all a criminal needs to get started. But seniors lose more money.”
This summer, Abagnale published a new book, Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today’s Ripoff Artists. About five years ago, he said in an interview, AARP asked its 38 million members what their concerns were, and chief among them were identity theft, romance scams, and other crimes against seniors.
The lobbying group approached Abagnale to write the book and speak to its members across the country.
The internet has changed everything about fraud, he said. “It’s easy to scam people from far away, especially if the criminals pretend to be from a legitimate company such as Microsoft, Bank of America, or the Social Security Administration.”
There are two basic red flags to every scam, Abagnale said. “First, I’m going to ask you to send me money — and you have to do it immediately, via credit card, or wire, or bank account number. Some even tell people to stay on the phone and go down to Walmart and get a GreenDot card,” he said.
Second, they ask you for information. “Even your caller ID can be manipulated. They call you and say they need to verify you have your card in your possession and to read the last three digits. No bank does that.”
Romance scams of the elderly are rampant. “One woman gave a man she met online $178,000. He claimed to live a few states away, but he lived in Greece, not in America. He was doing the same thing with 20 women.”
Social media: “I don’t use it, and I’m never on it. Once someone has your full name and your birthday, they’re well on their way to stealing your identity.”
Cryptocurrency, he said, is “just another scam, a way of laundering and hiding money. It’s extremely unsafe and risky. Avoid it. Last year, the U.S. closed down 112 exchanges that were fraudulent. Anyone can hack into the crypto accounts and steal assets — even Facebook’s new Libra."
If you can’t attend, hear Abagnale interviewed on an AARP podcast online here: https://www.aarp.org/podcasts/the-perfect-scam.html?cmp=AFF-MIM-LNK-NULL-FRD-TPS-NULL-0619-ABAG.