You may recognise the name Frank Abagnale from the 2002 movie “Catch Me If You Can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the con man who convinces the world he’s everything from an airline pilot to a lawyer to a doctor.
Abagnale isn’t a fictional character. The movie is based on a portion of his life, before he was arrested at 21.
Today the 68-year-old former con man works as a fraud expert for the FBI and serves as an ambassador for the AARP Fraud Watch Network to raise awareness and prevention of cybercrime.
And, he tells AARP’s Hugh Delehanty, identity theft is “amazingly simple to do.”
To protect himself against modern-day fraudsters, Abagnale uses a three-step process:
1. He shreds everything with a micro-cut shredder, “even if it’s worthless.”
2. He uses a service to monitor activity at the three US credit bureaus and notify him when anyone tries to use his credit. (He doesn’t specify which one, but each of the bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — offer it for a fee, and companies like IdentityGuard, IdentityForce, and Lifelock also provide this service.)
3. He rarely writes checks, which are easy to duplicate and steal.
Additionally, Abagnale tells AARP that he stays away from debit cards, using credit cards exclusively:
I don’t have one. I use only credit cards, because if somebody gets my card number and charges $1 million, my liability — by federal law — is zero. But when you use a debit card, you’re exposing the money in your account. And even if you use your debit card every day for the next 25 years, it won’t raise your credit score one point.
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