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Legendary con man talks about modern day scams and how to protect yourself

Hear from the man who inspired the movie "Catch Me If You Can"

(WDIV)--He's one of the most notorious con men in history.  His life was so fascinating, that it inspired an Academy-Award nominated film, "Catch Me If You Can."


Frank Abagnale talked to News 6 sister station WDIV about how people can protect themselves from guys like he used to be. He was only 15 when he pulled off his first con. He took his father for thousands of dollars using a gasoline credit card. He then moved on to much grander schemes -- and between the ages of 16 and 21, wrote $2.5 million of bad checks.

He went to prison, but wasn't in long before the government took him out and asked him to work for them. Abagnale has been doing that for more than 40 years, currently as a consultant and lecturer for the FBI.

Is he remorseful?
"I wouldn't have worked for the government for 41 years if I didn't have remorse," he said. "I was too young. I was an adolescent. I didn't think of the consequences."

Opinion on con men
Abagnale says there are no real con men anymore, just people sitting in China, Russia and India in their pajamas with a laptop, stealing billions of dollars from people miles away. He says there's no need to be well-spoken and well-dressed anymore because the victim never sees who's victimizing them.
He says it's not only seniors that fall for computer scams, there are a lot of young people, too, that fall for phishing scams or get malware on their computers.

Why people fall for scams
"I think people are basically honest, and because they're honest, they don't have a deceptive mind. So they're not thinking someone is trying to rip them off, or it's a scam," he said.

Solution
Abagnale says education is the key. Knowing what kinds of scams are out there helps you know what to look for and protect yourself.
An example is when people get phone calls asking for money. The caller befriends you and then plays on your sympathy, asking for money for an operation or to help someone in their family. That's all it takes, and you send the money and never see it again. Think it through. If you don't know who you're talking to, don't send the money.

Advice
If someone does scam you, don't be ashamed, Abagnale says, call a loved one and call the police.
He says the smartest bankers have been ripped off. By reporting any kind of con, you help other people become aware and stop the bad guys.