The real-life con man played by Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Catch Me If You Can' says check fraud is 'a thousand times easier' today

Catch me if you canKevin Winter/GettyFrank Abagnale Jr. and Leonardo DiCaprio at the premiere of ‘Catch Me If You Can’ in 2002.

The former con-man portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film “Catch Me If You Can” says that it’s now “a thousand times easier” to write fraudulent checks against your bank account than it was during his criminal heyday.

Frank Abagnale Jr., the former convicted scam artist turned FBI fraud-security consultant, told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that check forging has become a much simpler art in the age of modern technology.

“Today, one simply sits down, opens a laptop and says, ‘Who’s my victim today?'” Abagnale said.

He went on to walk the WSJ interviewer through the “simple” and minute processes of common check fraud, tracing a step-by-step example of a convenience-store check payment:

“Think about this: You go into a convenience store today and write a check for $US9. You have to hand the clerk the check with your name and address, phone number, your bank’s name and address, your account number at your bank, the routing number into your account. That’s your wiring instructions. Your signature that’s on the signature card at your bank. …

Anyone who would see the face of that check — from the clerk who took it at the counter to the one that made the night deposit — could draft on your bank account tomorrow, would have all the drafting instructions. Or they could go online [and order checks] that look exactly like your checks, but put their name on it and put your account number on it. So every check they write gets debited against your account. It’s so simple to do.”

Abagnale spent five years in prison in the 1970s after he was arrested for running a series of notorious scams from 1965 until 1970.

His criminal check fraud enterprise, posing as a credentialed pilot, doctor, and lawyer as a teenager, and eventual career as a security consultant with the FBI (upon release from prison) were the subject of Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.”

Read the Wall Street Journal interview here.

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