Frank Abagnale on the death of the con artist and the rise of cybercrime

Wise words from a very knowledgeable person. Click here to read the full story or an excerpt below.

If you were still a con artist, which of the tools available now would you use?
When I did the things I did, I did them all between 16 and 21. I’m 64 years old now. When I did it I made $2.5m over a period of five years. If I was stealing identities today, I’d be looking at more like $20 million (£13m) or $50 million (£33m). If you can ‘become’ somebody else, what you can do is unbelievable, whether it’s getting mortgages in their name, credit, jobs in their name. It’s just wide-open. The internet is a wonderful thing but it opens the door to many crimes so you have to stay ahead of it.

How well are governments coping with fighting this sort of crime?
The problem you have today is that crime has become truly overwhelming and in the US white collar crime was over $950bn. It was almost a trillion dollars. So you have everything from Wall Street fraud to embezzlements to cybercrime and then you have to deal with terrorism as well. So a lot of crime is going on but there are very few resources to deal with it. This means that you have to privatise, so if you are a credit card company you are after the guys stealing $5-10 million from you. Criminals know that if they stay under certain thresholds, nobody is going to come after them. The fact that cybercrime is global makes it particularly hard. If I know someone in Russia is getting information and breaking into a bank’s computer system, trying to get the Russian police to go after that person is almost impossible.

How can individuals protect themselves?
It’s an education thing. I speak at a lot of universities and people are always worried about Facebook and when I explain how to use it properly they immediately go back and make those changes. Imagine if you are 14-year-old kid and you just read a book about the Nazis. So you get on Facebook and say, “wow, I think the Nazis are cool” or “I love the Nazis”. Then six years later you apply to university or a job and they go to your Facebook page and see that statement and they don’t hire you. Be very careful of what you say on your Facebook page.



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