Ex-con who inspired movie 'Catch Me if You Can' now offering advice to consumers

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Frank Abagnale was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie 'Catch Me if You Can.' (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Dreamworks LLC) Frank Abagnale was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie 'Catch Me if You Can.' (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Dreamworks LLC)
(Source: Dreamworks LLC) (Source: Dreamworks LLC)
Frank Abagnale, whose story was told in the movie Catch Me If You Can, now helps the feds track down con artists. (Source: Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan via AARP.org) Frank Abagnale, whose story was told in the movie Catch Me If You Can, now helps the feds track down con artists. (Source: Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan via AARP.org)
PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

If you want to learn how to avoid crooks and scams, why not talk to one of the greatest con men of all time.

Many people will recognize the name, Frank Abagnale. Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed him in the Hollywood blockbuster "Catch Me if You Can." He spent years on the run from the FBI but later came to work for them. Now he's got a new game - educating consumers to fight fraud.

In DiCaprio's depiction of Frank Abagnale in "Catch Me if You Can," he would call the FBI agent on his tail (played by Tom Hanks) every Christmas. The real-life Abagnale, in Phoenix conducting a teleconference with AARP members, says he had a good reason for those calls.

"He was always giving away information, I don't think he realized that he was telling me things that I was taking notes on while I spoke to him and the madder I got him the more he told me," Abagnale said.

Abagnale was one of the biggest con men in U.S. history; passing bad checks and even pretending to be a pilot.

"I think I got away with so much of it because I was so young. Had I been 25, I probably would have rationalized that I could never get away with this," Abagnale said.

But after getting out of jail, he spent decades working for the FBI, helping them catch con men. Now he's partnered with AARP to help protect consumers. He says most cons start with a request for money or personal information.

"And that's the time when you need to say, "I need to verify this is correct." So, I live on a very simple premise, and that is 'stop, verify'," Abagnale said.

Abagnale also says social media is a goldmine for the typical crook.

"Now if you told me on your Facebook page where you were born and your date of birth, that's all I need to steal your identity, that's 98 percent of what I need," Abagnale said.

He's learned a lot from his days on the run and now is sharing that knowledge with others. Oh, and he loved DiCaprio's portrayal of him.

"He is an amazing character actor and made himself into a teenager and played that role; I couldn't have had a better person play that role," Abagnale said.

Abagnale suggests you use only a credit card because you have no liability if a con man ever gets hold of it. He says you also should use a micro cut shredder because crooks can easily put together the pieces from any other type.

He is making a presentation Thursday evening at the Sheraton Crescent hotel. While the free event is at full capacity, you can watch live on AARP Arizona's Facebook page.

And one final note on the famous Spielberg movie about him. Abagnale says he had a lifelong friendship with Joseph Shea, the FBI agent on whom Hanks' character was loosely based, until he died.


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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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