Catch AARP’s Newest Spokesperson, If You Can

Frank Abagnale Jr., a noted identity thief who was the subject of a Leonardo DiCaprio film, is now working with AARP to warn older Americans about social media scams.

Remember the movie Catch Me If You Can? The 2002 Steven Spielberg-Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration was a memorable yarn about a clever scammer who blended into his surroundings like a chameleon, frustrating law enforcement authorities who pursued him for years.

The film was based on a real guy, Frank Abagnale Jr., who eventually (after a stint in prison) became an important figure in banking security. He was an expert at spotting the very weaknesses in financial systems that he exploited as a young check forger in the 1960s.

Now, with decades of experience as a security expert, Abagnale serves as AARP’s Fraud Watch Network ambassador. In that role, he’s warning the public about the risks of scams on social media.

AARP’s new campaign, announced Friday, will advise its members on how to stay safe when using social platforms. It reveals two tricks that scammers use against older adults: a shopping scam that aims to put fake charges on credit cards and a genealogy website that tries to steal personal information.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Abagnale noted that the scams he pulled as a teenager would be “4,000 times easier to do today than when I did it.”

“Technology breeds crime—it always has and it always will. There’s always going to be people willing to use technology in a negative, self-serving way,” he said. “So today it’s much easier, whether it’s forging checks or getting information.”

Abagnale added that he sees his role with AARP as a part of his long image rehabilitation. He’s been taking part in events around the country, including upcoming speeches sponsored by AARP Hawaii in October. The events in Oahu and Maui are free to the public.

When asked what he’s been most proud of since leaving prison, he told the Journal: “I think the fact that I’ve been associated with the FBI for 40 years. I’ve been an ambassador to AARP. I deal with all their crimes against the elderly and helping them deal with consumer problems and things like that. And the fact that I’ve been married to my one and only wife for 41 years and now I have three sons.”

Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Frank Abagnale, pictured, in a popular movie. (UK CivilService/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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