Frank Abagnale

From Academic Kids

Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 1948) was an impostor for five years in the 1960s. The movie Catch Me If You Can is loosely based on his exploits as described in his book Catch Me If You Can (ISBN 0767905385). Currently he is a financial fraud consultant.



In 1964, at the age of 16, after his parents divorced, Abagnale ran away to New York City. He decided to exploit his older-looking appearance and alter his driver's license to make it appear that he was ten years older to get a job.

His first con was to print his account number on blank deposit slips and add them to the real blank ones. This meant that the deposits written on those slips ended up into his account. He collected over US$40,000 before the bank discovered the trick and he had to change his identity. Other cons included simply writing and cashing checks on his overdrawn account, getting cash before the checks bounced.

In one stage Abagnale masqueraded as Pan Am pilot "Frank Williams" for two years to get free rides around the world. He conned the Pan Am HQ to give him directions how to get a genuine pilot's uniform and made an ID card out of a sample model. He also interviewed a Pan Am pilot and acquired an FAA license (he bought a frame, which he resized down to ID card form). He later masqueraded as a doctor in Georgia under the name "Frank Conners". When his fiancée called the police, Abagnale was again forced to run.

He also forged a Harvard University Law diploma, passed the bar exam (which he claims to have done legitimately) and got a job in an office of the state attorney general of Louisiana. In his novel, he described his job as a "gopher boy" who simply fetched coffee for his boss. Later, he impersonated a pediatrician and became a resident supervisor in a Georgia hospital. After several close calls, he realized that he could be seriously endangering the health of patients and left. He forged a Columbia University degree and taught sociology at Brigham Young University for a semester, although the university claims to have no record of such employment, and Abagnale has been reported as saying elsewhere that he only claimed to be a TA [1] (

In the time of five years, he had used eight identities and passed bad checks worth over $2.5 million in 26 countries. The money was used for a lifestyle where he dated flight attendants, ate at expensive places, bought expensive clothing, and set the wheels for his next con.

Eventually he was arrested in France in 1969 when an Air France attendant recognized his face from a wanted poster. When the French police apprehended him, all 26 countries wanted him to be extradited. He first served six months in Perpigan's House of Arrest in France in which he nearly died. Then he was extradited to Sweden where he served a year in Malmö prison for forgery. Later, a judge revoked his U.S passport and deported him to the United States to prevent further extradition. He was sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison for multiple counts of forgery.

In 1974, the United States federal government released him on condition that he would help the federal authorities against fraud and scams—without pay. After his release, Abagnale tried several jobs, but finding them unsatisfying, he approached a bank with an offer. He explained to the bank what he had done, and offered to speak to the bank's staff and show various tricks that "paperhangers" use to defraud banks. He made an offer to the bank that if they did not find his speech helpful, they owed him nothing; otherwise, they owed him $50 and would spread his name to other banks. Naturally, they were impressed, and this event was how his new, legitimate life began. He founded a company, Abagnale & Associates, that he uses to advise the business world and organises lecture tours. Abagnale is now a multi-millionaire through his legal fraud detection and avoidance consulting business.

In 2002, Abagnale wrote a general, all-purpose book called The Art of the Steal. In the chapters, he listed common cons and ways to prevent consumers from being defrauded. In 2004, he released a book titled Real U Identity Theft, where he instructed and described how to prevent identity theft from occurring.

In Catch Me if You Can, the movie, Abagnale has a cameo at the end as a French police officer when Frank (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) gets arrested.

Abagnale's books

See also

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