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Catch Me If You Can

A visual aid for presentation on the book by Frank Abagnale

Erin Looney

on 17 February 2011

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Transcript of Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can My research focuses on fraud and con artistry mostly. The facts and stats are modern- the book was written in 1980, the stats are from this year or last year.

Going into research, I intend to learn about fraud mostly. It’s the biggest crime in America today and seems the most accessible to find information on. I’m curious about the stats of people who are victim to fraud and who also victimize using fraud. In the span of five years, Frank Abagnale accomplished more then most people do in a life time. He made $2.5 million, acted as a co-pilot for Pam Am, served as temporary resident of a pediatrician ward, practiced law in Louisiana's attorney general office, and taught a summer semester of sociology in Utah. However, none of it was honest. Abagnale was one of the most audacious con men, forgers, imposters and escape artists in the history of the world. His millions were earned through forged checks and other scams. And all of it happened before he turned 21. Now working with the government to prevent the crimes he himself committed, Abagnale retells his tales of crime- the crimes he committed in the name of “love”. This stranger-then-fiction account of a man on the run from all 50 states and 26 countries is sure to entertain- and astound.
Oddly enough, I never felt like a criminal. I was one, of course, and I was aware of the fact- Page 4, paragraph 6, line 1 … I was a swindler and a faker, and if and when I were caught I wasn't going to win any Oscars. I was going to jail- Page 5, paragraph 1, line 3 But there's also a type of person whose competitive instincts override reason. They are challenged by a given situation in much the same manner a climber is challenged by a tall peak: because it's there. Right or wrong are not factors, nor are consequences. These people look on crime as a game, and the goal is not just the loot; it's the success of the venture that counts. Of course, if the boot is bountiful, that's nice, too. These people are the chess players of the criminal world. They generally have a genius-level IQ and their mental knights and bishops are always on attack. They never anticipate being checkmated. They are always astonished when a cop with average intelligence rooks them, and the cop is always astonished at their motives. Crime as a challenge? Jesus. - Page 13, paragraphs 3-4 “Who are you?” asked a lush brunette when I plopped down on Miami Beach beside her. “Anyone I want to be,” I said. I was, too – Page 20, paragraphs 2-3 As Frank Abagnale is the main focus of this book, not much is needed to be said for his bio. Abagnale was born in Bronxville, New York. He began his infamous crime spree at the age of 16, when he swindled his dad out of $3400 by charging things to a credit card his father gave him, but instead having the cashier just give him a fraction of the money in cash. At the end of the crime spree, he served 6 months in a French jail, 6 months in a Swedish prison and five years in an American jail. He actually escaped police custody twice, once through the toilet of a plane and once out of the actual jail itself. After he served his time, he was released into the work force, but couldn't hold down a job due to his rather terrifying record. He finally approached a bank, proposing to them a deal. They let him speak to their workers, and if it doesn't help, they pay him nothing. Otherwise they pay him only $50 and promise to give his name to other banks. This way, Abagnale became a bank security consultant. Abagnale then founded Abagnale and Associates, a firm that advises on business fraud. He is now a legal millionaire. Bilked (verb)- Cheat someone out of what is due, especially money
Fraudulent (adjective)- Characterized by, founded on, or proceeding from, fraud
Jargon (noun)- the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group
Paperhanger (noun)- Slang. A person who passes worthless checks
Squawk Box (noun)- An intercom system
Medico (noun)- A physician or surgeon; a doctor
Finked (verb)- To inform to the police
Yenched (verb)- Slang. To swindle someone; to victimize someone
Sûreté (noun)- The criminal investigation department of the french government
Gendarmes (noun)- a police officer in any of several European countries, especially a french police officer The average victim of check fraud looses $3744 77.4% of all people guilty of fraud are male Among victims, 55.4% were male Men tend to loose $1.69 to a woman's $1.00 Most frauds today takes place over e-mail or webpages The age group targeted the most is 30-39 years old California has the largest number of frauds take place there (with 15% of all frauds in the US, who is number one in people who commit fraud in the world) Con artists blend in with a certain group of people in order to earn their trust before conning them Con artists often times promise lots of money with a little cost, but have nothing to back up with information except testimonies More often then not, con artists will disguise themselves as highly successful individuals, like doctors or pilots (like in Abagnale's case) 1% of all prisoners escape in any given year The average age of prey for con artists is 78 years old Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan- Frank Abagnale
The Art of the Steal: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America's #1 Crime – Frank Abagnale

Both by the author of Catch Me If You Can , and both full of ways to prevent yourself from falling victim to the crimes Abagnale committed. Con artistry is a bit of a lost art, so other books I found were outdated. Tennant, Don. "Frank Abagnale: the con man turned crime fighter talks about stupid laws, naive companies and the lure of easy money." Computerworld 41.49 (2007): 22+. Student Edition. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.

You can get away with so much more this day in age then you could 40 years ago. For instance, trying to find the logo for a fake check. You just need to go to the airlines website to find it. The internet breeds crime. It always has, it always will. Only about half of Fortune 500 companies even have a code of ethics or code of conduct. If character and ethics were brought back to schools, crime wouldn’t be such a big deal today. Abagnale figures that if there’s a man or woman who created it, a man or woman can defeat it. Companies hire people today without a proper back ground check. The way into a company is through the lowest paid worker. You just pay them a bunch and they’ll do anything you want. What did you find out?
Wow, what didn’t I find out? I started reading this novel with absolutely no idea how con men operated, worked, or what motivated them to be con men. I knew a few things about Frank Abagnale, since I’d seen the movie version of his book. I didn’t really comprehend a lot of what he’d done, though, since I was a lot younger when I saw the movie.

What did you learn?
One that that really sticks out in my mind is learning about French jails. I didn’t realize how terrible they were. Abagnale was forced to sleep in his own filth in a room that would have had any claustrophobic in a panic attack after five minutes. Another thing is just how easy it was to cheat people out of money in the 60s. None of that would fly this day in age, though that may due to Abagnale. What content was most significant and why?
The male involvement in fraud was absolutely the most significant. I would have thought that women would have been more susceptible to scams, since they tend to be led by emotions as opposed to their mind, and they also are the originators of the “dumb blondes” (since women are the ones who dye their hair most often). Maybe it’s the fact that most women aren’t very gullible that prevents this from happening.

What surprised you?
The lax prison sentence that abagnale surprised me the most. I could not believe 6 months in France, 6 months in Sweden and 4 years in the US was sufficient punishment for him. He made $2.5 million off of crimes, and he only spent 5 years in jail? Then goes on to become a millionaire over again for what he did? Mind you, the french jail was a hell hole, but still.
Did you find information that either challenged or confirmed your assumptions or preconceived notions about your topic?
No, not really. This book was written in 1980, over 30 years ago. Technology has made leaps and bounds since then. Fraud is a much different topic this day in age. It was hard to compare my research and the book.

What did you take from your research?
I learned that fraud is a pretty major problem in America today. It’s something that often flies under the radar, because if it doesn’t happen to you, it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t make front pages of newspapers. It merely causes havoc to those who fall victim to it. What thoughts, ideas or conclusions have you come to based on your findings?
I’ve learned that leading a life of crime doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person- it could mean your misguided. Abagnale’s family life is what caused him to take a plunge into the world of crime. That and girls. There are often reasons as to why someone did something.

What questions do you now have as a result of your findings?
Is check forgery that common? Do con artists really have such a wide spread target as all of the United States and 26 other countries? What makes people fall for scams?

How has your findings affected your ideas about the world around you?
It hasn’t affected me much. I know con artists are out there, I’m just hoping I never have to see them or fall victim to them.
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