'Catch Me if You Can' thief Frank Abagnale teaches ID theft protection in Chapel Hill

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Frank Abagnale gave advice on preventing identity theft to an audience in Chapel Hill.

Just in case the packed house inside UNC's Friday Center didn't already know the name, Frank Abagnale, they played a few clips from the movie "Catch Me if You Can."

Leonardo DiCaprio starred as Abagnale, a teenage check-forging, identity-stealing international criminal, who after spending five years in prison, was released by the government on the condition he become an FBI consultant on catching scam artists.

Tuesday in Chapel Hill, Abagnale said today's criminals are committing the same old scams; it's the technology that's new and making the crimes easier.
"I have learned that hackers don't breach, people do. So they're just looking for the open door, waiting for someone to make a mistake and come in and steal information," Abagnale said, referring to the recent massive breach at credit bureau Equifax.

He told the crowd that unlike most data breaches they've heard about recently where credit and debit card information is stolen and most consumers aren't liable for losses, in the case of Equifax, names, dates of birth, and Social Security card numbers of 143 million Americans are now in the hands of criminals just waiting to sell the information on the black market.

"If I steal your name, Social Security number and date of birth, you can't change those things," Abagnale said. "So the longer I hold on to it, the more valuable it is."

The event was sponsored by AARP as a part of the group's Fraud Watch Network program. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein addressed the crowd, made up largely of seniors. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall also spoke.

Connie Mullinex of Chapel Hill left the auditorium enlightened but also a little terrified.

"I think I am absolutely scared," she said. "And, I'm going to get rid of my Facebook account."

Abagnale's advice on identity-theft protection can be jarring to hear. He warned against posting any personal information on social media. He said not to even use profile pictures where the camera is straight-on because scammers can steal your face.

The world-famous check forger said he now writes as few checks as possible. There's too much personal information in too many hands, as he sees it.

And he never uses a debit card, only credit. He told the crowd if someone steals his credit card, it's the credit card company's money that's gone, not his.

Abagnale made a believer out of Mullinex.

"I'm going to use my credit card instead of a debit card," she said. "And I think I'm not going to be as trustful as I have been in the past."
Related Topics:
financescamsAARP Fraud Watch Networkidentity theftsecurity breachdata breachsenior citizensorange county newsChapel HillOrange County
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