Someone’s identity is stolen every two seconds in the United States and older Americans account for 10 to 13 percent of those victims. Frank Abagnale knows all the tricks for stealing your identity.
During his criminal career, which began when he was just 16, Abagnale forged more than $2.5 million in checks and posed as an airline pilot, a doctor and even a lawyer before being captured at age 21.
His exploits became a best-selling book upon which the 2002 movie, “Catch Me If You Can,” was made, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale.
Luckily for us, Abagnale gave up his life of crime and has worked for the last 40 years as an FBI advisor and security consultant. He recently became AARP’s Fraud Watch Ambassador and travels the country educating consumers about protecting themselves from identity theft and cybercrime.
AARP is bringing Abagnale to Honolulu and Maui next month to share tips on preventing identity theft and outsmarting con artists. The seminars — on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i in Mö‘ili‘ili, and on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 9:30 a.m. at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Wailuku — are free and open to everyone. You don’t have to be an AARP member, but you do have to reserve a seat at http://bit.ly/aarpHIevents or by calling 1-877-926-8300.
Abagnale warns that hackers probably already have your identity due to recent, massive security breaches. Even if they don’t, however, technology has made it easy for hackers to steal your identity. It would take a good fraudster less than 15 seconds. Abagnale has six basic tips to protect yourself from identity theft.
1) Buy a “micro-cut” shredder, which turns paper into confetti. Shred everything, including address pages from catalogues and magazines.
2) Use a credit monitoring service.
3) Do not use a debit card — use a credit card instead. A debit card uses your money, while a credit card exposes the bank’s money.
4) Avoid writing checks for purchases in public places such as stores.
5) Never put your birthdate or place of birth on Facebook. Those are keys that can expose your identity.
6) When posting pictures on social media, don’t use a photo of yourself straight on. There are too many apps and devices that can take your picture and match it online. Post photos with a group of friends or taking part in some kind of activity.
For more tips, come to Abagnale’s lecture, visit the AARP Hawaii Facebook page or go to the AARP Fraud Watch Network website at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/. We will also share his speech on the AARP Hawaii Facebook page.
And if you don’t remember Abagnale’s story, we’re showing the movie, “Catch Me If You Can,” as part of our “Movies for Grownups” program on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2:30 p.m. at the Regal Dole Cannery Theater in Honolulu and at the Regal Maui Mall theaters. The movie is free, but you must preregister at http://bit.ly/aarpHIevents.
Catch Abagnale in person if you can. If you don’t, fraudsters may catch you and steal your identity and hard-earned money.
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.
This column originally appeared in The Hawaii Herald, Hawaii’s Japanese-American Journal.