Photo: (AP Photo/Lucy Nicholson)
There’s something impressive about an old-fashioned con man, who commits crimes using nothing but charisma and quick thinking.The legendary Frank Abagnale Jr. was so impressive that Steven Spielberg turned his life into a hit movie, Catch Me If You Can.
We examined how Abagnale committed his greatest cons.
To afford all the dates he was scoring, Abagnale made deals with gas station attendants, where he 'purchased' tires, car batteries and other car accessories on his father's credit card, which he was only supposed to use for gas.
But instead of actually leaving with the items he bought, Abagnale bribed gas station attendants to keep the products and give him cash instead.
Abagnale's dad was ultimately stuck with a credit card bill of several thousand dollars.
After he moved to New York, Abagnale started small, cashing checks when he didn't have any money in his account. But he eventually upgraded to impersonating a Pan Am pilot.
Getting a uniform wasn't simple. He called Pan Am's purchasing agent, claimed his hotel lost his uniform, and visited Pan Am's uniform supplier. He gave the company a fake employee ID number and was on his way.
Abagnale conned 3M into making him a Pan Am ID, telling the company he needed to present a sample badge to airline colleagues. Once 3M made the badge, complete with his picture, Abagnale bought a model Pan Am plane, stripped it of its logo, and plunked the logo onto his newly made ID.
He even managed to fake his own FAA licence, registered under the name Frank Williams.
To gain the knowledge, Abagnale posed as a student researching a project about aviation to meet with Pan Am executives and learn everything he could about both the company and the industry.
He used his newfound career to hitch free jump-seat rides across the country, meaning he could cash phony checks at banks and airline counters anywhere in the country.
He got Pan Am stewardesses to pose for phony company ads and cashed more than $2 million in bad checks.
Abagnale met with the director of student placement at Arizona State University to discuss using junior and senior women to act as public relations representatives for an airline company, which he claimed was Pan Am.
Abagnale and the women traveled to dozens of European countries, participating in photo shoots he maintained were meant to advertise Pan Am.
But while the women were posing for what they thought were company ads, Abagnale was manufacturing phony Pan Am expense checks that the girls would endorse over to him.
After all was said and done, Abagnale reportedly pocketed nearly $300,000.
He inserted his own account number into the empty space.
Anyone who used the rigged deposit slips wound up depositing money into his account. He reportedly made $40,000 in four days off that scam.
He also opened accounts at banks across the world, providing them with real addresses for wherever he was staying at the time and using real cash deposits to create the account.
Abagnale would overwrite checks for hundreds or thousands of dollars and move on before authorities could catch up.
After listing his occupation as doctor on an apartment rental form, Abagnale eventually befriended a 'fellow' doctor living in the same apartment complex.
His friend began taking him to the hospital, where Abagnale became acquainted with the other doctors.
He was also granted access to the medical library, which helped him research his newest profession.
The hospital administrator ultimately offered Abagnale a job as the hospital's intern supervisor, which he accepted.
Abagnale's well-liked personality -- he joked whenever he didn't know the answer to a question --kept him safe in the hospital.
Despite never attending law school, it only took three attempts for Abagnale to pass the bar exam in Louisiana
It didn't hurt that state laws let him take the test as many times as necessary. He was hired as a legal assistant in the corporate law division of the state's attorney general's office.
But Abagnale quickly left the job after a colleague, a real Harvard graduate, became suspicious.
Abagnale then fell back into his role with Pan Am.
When he moved to Utah, Abagnale contacted the dean of Brigham Young University, claiming to be a former professor who left the field to work as a pilot and was interested in getting back into the classroom.
He brought fake credentials to the meeting and within an hour had convinced the dean to offer him a job.
After researching his latest professional conquest, Abagnale's class quickly became a student favourite.
Abagnale swindled strangers out of money by posing as a security guard in front of a deposit drop box.
After he was arrested at Boston Airport and subsequently released, Abagnale became even bolder, renting a security guard uniform and standing in front of a night-deposit box at the airport.
He told everyone the drop box was out of service and to leave their deposits with him, which many did.
He heads up Abagnale & Associates, which consults corporate clients about how to avoid con men. He also teaches law enforcement the best ways to apprehend con men.
In addition, Abagnale rakes in $15,000 per lecture to speak about his past and how people can avoid falling victim to someone like him.
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