Frank Abagnale: "Catch Me If You Can" | Talks at Google
Good. Morning it's a pleasure to be here this morning and, ask your indulgence on, two things it's allergy, season so. I have a real hard time during this. Time of year speaking and to, most, of the speaking I do when I walk up to the podium is very technical, it deals with cybercrime. And identity. Theft forgery embezzlements. And things of that nature I don't. Often talk about my life but Google has asked me today to do something that different and talk a little bit about my life so, I will do that and then at, the end of course I'll take questions and those questions can be about any subject matter that you I'd, like to ask as. You know I've had a lot of people tell my story. I had a great movie director, write a film. About my life I've had a great Broadway, musical, team make a Tony award-winning, Broadway musical. About my life had a popular, television show, on TV white collar for four years creating around my life and, most of those very creative people have actually never met me personally. But. They've enjoyed telling my story from their, point of view so I thought, I would take a few minutes this morning and actually tell you the story from my. Point of view I was. Raised just north of New York City in Westchester, County New York I was actually one of four children in the family the so called middle child of the four I was, educated there by the Christian Brothers of Ireland in a private Catholic school called, Iona where I went to school from kindergarten, to high school by, the time I had reached the age of 16, in the tenth grade my parents after 22, years of marriage when they decided to get, a divorce, unlike. Most divorces where the children were usually the first to know my parents were very good about keeping that a secret I remember. Being in the tenth grade when the father walked in the classroom one afternoon asked a brother to excuse me from class when I came out in the hallway the father handed. Me my books and told me that one of the brothers would drive me to the county seat and why Plains New York where I would meet my parents and they would explain what was going on I remember. The brother dropped me at the steps of a big stone building and, told me to go on up the steps and my parents would be waiting for me in the lobby emember, climbing the steps seeing a sign on the building it said Family Court but I really didn't understand what that meant when. I arrived in the lobby my parents were not there but I was ushered into the back of an immense courtroom where my parents were standing before a judge I couldn't. Hear what the judge was saying nor my parents response, but. Eventually the judge saw me at the back of the room and motioned. Me to approach the bench so I walked up to stand in between my parents I remember. Distinctly that, the judge never looked at me he never acknowledged, I was standing there he, simply read from his papers, and said that my parents were getting a divorce and, because I was 16 years of age I would, need to tell the court which parent, I chose, to live with I started. To cry so I turned, and ran out of the courtroom judge. Called for a 10-minute recess but, by the time my parents got outside I was, gone my, mother never saw me again for about seven years until I was a young adult contrary. To the movie my father never saw me where ever spoke to me again, in. The mid-1960s, running, away was very popular thing for young people a lot of them got caught up in haight-ashbury, the hippie scene the drug scene instead, I took a few belongings to my home packed him in a bag ordered. What was in the New Haven and Hartford railroad for, the short train ride down to Grand Central Terminal, in New York, my, father did own the stationary store in Manhattan, it was located on the corner of 40th and Madison, like all of us we had to work in that store so from the time I was about 13, I made deliveries, for my dad in the summer on a bike, I knew, the city very well so naturally, I started, looking for the same type of work there. Were a lot of signs on the window stock board delivery, boy part-time I'd walk, in and apply so, tell me young man how old here at. 16, how'd you go in high school at, tenth grade I'll hire you now I went to work for a small amount of money a few hours a day but.
I Soon realized that couldn't support myself on that amount of money I also realized, as long as people believed, I was 16, years old they. Weren't going to pay me any, more money at, 16, I was six foot tall I've always had a little gray hair my, friends in school used to say that once a week when we dressed in a suit for mass I look more like a teacher so. I decided to lie about my age in New York we had a driver's license, at 16 back. Then it didn't have a photo on it just an IBM card so I altered one digit, of my date of birth I was, actually born in April of 1948. But I dropped the four converted, it to a three and that made me 26, years, old I walked, around applying, for the same type of work people gave me a little more money few, more hours but, even then it was very difficult, to make ends meet one. Of the few things I had taken when I left home was a checkbook, I had money from work on the summers I had some money in that checking account so every so often I would write a check to supplement, my income $20. $25. The, funds were there the checks were good but, it was my friends, my peers who would constantly, say to me you know you're, the only guy no walks into a bank in the middle of Manhattan you have no account there you, don't know a soul you, talked to somebody behind a desk and they. Okay your check oh well, my checks are good yeah but if I walked in there they wouldn't touch my check you, walk in there they don't bat an eye now, years later reporters. Would write and speculate, and say that that was my upbringing mannerisms. Dress appearance, speech whatever it was was very easy to do so consequently. When the money right now I kept writing those checks, of, course the cheque started to bounce please, started looking for me as a runaway so I thought maybe it was a good time to start thinking about leaving, New York City but, I was quite apprehensive about, going to Chicago or. Miami wondered if they've cash in New York check on a New York driver's, license, in Miami as, quickly as they did in Manhattan, I was. Walking at 42nd, Street when afternoon, about five o'clock in the evening 16, years old pondering, all of these things when I started, to approach the front door of an old hotel that used to be there called. The Commodore, hotel now the Grand Hyatt just. As I was about to get to the front door of the hotel out stepped, in Eastern airline flight crew onto, the sidewalk I couldn't, help but notice the captain, the copilot, the flight engineer, about three or four flight attendants, dragging their bags to the curb to load him in the van to take them to the airport as they.
Loaded The man I thought to myself that's. It, I could, pose as a pilot, I could, travel all over the world for free I probably, could get just about anybody, anywhere, to cash a check for, me so, I walked up the street little further to 42nd. And Park went to cross over I heard a huge helicopter so. I looked up and there was New York Airways landing, on the roof for the Pan Am building Pan. Am the nation's flag carrier, the airline that flew around the world I thought, what a perfect airline. To use so. The next day I placed a phone call to the executive, corporate offices, of Pan Am I remember. Distinctly when, the phone was ringing I had absolutely, no idea what. I was going to say when, they answered Pan American Airlines, good morning can I help you yes. Ma'am, I'd. Like to I'd. Like to speak to somebody in the purchasing. Department purchasing. One, moment the clerk came on and say yes American out me my name is John. Black I'm a co-pilot with the company based out of San Francisco been, with the company about seven years but never, had anything like this come up before what's, the problem well we flew a trip in here yesterday we're. Going out later today. Yesterday. I sent my uniform, out through the hotel to have a dry clean now, the hotel, and the cleaners said they can't find it yeah, I'm with the flight in about four hours new uniform, don't, you have a spare uniform, certainly, back home in San Francisco, but I never get it in time for my flight I do, understand, this will cost you the price of uniform not the company that, I understand, hold, on I'll be right back you came back and said my supervisor, says you need to go down to the well-built, uniform company on Fifth Avenue they're our supplier, I'll, call them let them know you're on the way well that's exactly what I wanted to know so I went down to the well-built Uniform, Company, little. Fella mr. Rosen fitted me out in the uniform that black gabardine with. Three gold stripes on the arm I certainly looked old enough to be the pilot when, he was all done I said how much do you wear the uniforms, 286 dollars said no problem I write you a check no. We. Can't take any checks oh well. They're not alum I'll just pay your cash now we can't accept cash you need to fill out this computer card then your needs boxes, put your employee number then, we build this back on the uniform allowance comes, out of your necks payin em paycheck that's even better go ahead and do that. New. York had two airports LaGuardia. And Kennedy, LaGuardia, was 20 minutes from Manhattan Kennedy. Was 50 naturally, LaGuardia, being the closer of the two that's where I went I spent, most of the morning walking around LaGuardia, in the uniform trying to figure out now that I had this uniform, of the hell Deegan on these planes I, got.
A Little hungry so about lunchtime I walked in the luncheonette, and the terminal sat down at the counter on the stool in order to sandwich moments. Later a TWA, crew walked in the, flight attendants, sat in the booth but the pilots up at the counter on either side of me and captain right next to me now, back before deregulation. Of the airlines airline, people thought of themselves as, just one big family so, they didn't hesitate a moment to talk to each other and the captain kind of leaned over a young. Man I was Pan Am doing doing. Just fine captain, tell me what's Pan Am doing out here LaGuardia, Pan Am doesn't fly into LaGuardia they only fly into Kennedy, well. I picked up on that right away. Yeah. We came into Kennedy I had a layover so I came over to visit some friends matter of fact I'm on my way back to Kennedy now, so tell me young man what type of equipment are you on our airline people have a lot of jargon for things one of them is they never call a plane a plane or an aircraft they. Call it equipment and what type of equipment here I mean what type of plane do you fly back then the dc-8 at 707, of, course I didn't know that and I thought type, of equipment, why are the. Equipment I'm on as this stool they. Must mean what type of equipment is on the planes I fly so, I thought where they got the wings I, got the engine it, always had a sticker on the engine who manufactured. The engine so I said yes General Electric all three pilots kind of just stopped eating and leaned over the captain, said oh really what do you fly washing, machine so I knew I said the wrong thing out the door I went. Everybody. Have an airline ID, card, a plastic, laminated, card much like a driver's, license today yet without the ID card the uniform, was worthless I went back to Manhattan pretty, discouraged, thinking where would I come up with a pan-american airline, corporate, ID, I was, sitting in the hotel room I noticed a big thick Manhattan, yellow pages so I pulled him down on the bed flipped him open and looked under the word identification. There. Were three or four pages of companies who made convention, badges metal badges plastic, badges police badges fire, just hard to call around and finally one company said listen. Most of those airline IDs, manufactured. By Polaroid 3m. Company you to call one of them finally. Got the 3m company on the phone in Manhattan, you know we manufacture. Pay names identification. System, along. With a number.
Of Other carriers how come so, today I'm a purchasing officer for a major US carrier I'm in New York just for the day we're, getting ready to expand the routes are a lot of new employees go to a formal ID we're. Very impressed with this Pan Am format one that if I came by our office this afternoon briefly, we could discuss quantity, and priced by all means come on by so, I went by dressed in a suit and the sales were Pope in the book yeah we do United Braniff, national, Pan Am panem, we. Like this Pan Am format, wouldn't. If you have a sample I could bring back sure, I'll be right back and he brought me back a 5x7, glossy. Piece of paper with a picture, of an ID card blown up in the middle of it someone, else's picture in the picture John, Doe for a name and in, bold red ink across the front this is a sample, only I said no I'm afraid this one do you know I need to bring back an actual physical, card and by the way what, is all this equipment on the floor but now we don't just sell these cards we sell the system camera, laminator, oh we have to buy all this absolutely. But, hey what students you have to buy it all why don't we just demonstrate, our works and use me fine ever see right here took, my picture. I was. Going down the elevators studying the card it had a blue border across the top about 1/2 inch in Pan Am's color blue but not a single thing on the card said Pan Am no logo, no insignia no, company, name this. Is a plastic, card like a credit card so you couldn't type on it couldn't write on it couldn't, print on it discourage. To put it in my pocket headed, back to the hotel as. I was walking back I noticed it I had passed a hobby shop so I turned around and walked back excuse, me sir I see sell a lot of models here there's some models of commercial, jetliners, sure, over there and, I bought a model of a Pan Am 707. Cargo, jet took, it back to my room open, the box through all the parts out but there at the bottom of the box was a sheet of decals one, on the model and when soaked in a glass of water the little Pan Am blue globe that would went on the tail of the plastic, plane went, perfect up at the top of the plastic card and the, word Pan Am and their special styling a graphics that would have went on the fuselage, went perfect across the top of the card and, the clear decal on the laminated, plastic, made a beautiful, identification. Card Pan, Am says they estimate, that between the ages of 16, and 18, I flew, more than a million miles for free boarded more than 260. Commercial, aircraft in more than 26, countries around the world, Pan, Am says keep in mind the fact that Frank Abagnale did in fact pose as one of our pilots for a long period, of time he, never once stepped, on board one, of our aircraft, that's true I never, flew on Pan Am because, I was afraid someone might say to me you know I'm based in San Francisco been, out there 16, years I don't, recall him meeting you before or, someone might say you know your ID card is not exactly, like. My ID card so instead, I flew, on everyone else if I wanted to go somewhere I literally, just walked out to the airport walked, up on the board United, flight 800. To Chicago, then I went downstairs to, the door marked United operations, and walked, in the, operations, clerk hey Pan Am what can we do for you it's, 1:00 if the jump seats open on 800 needed it at Chicago, it's open this evening like to get a pink slip past I'd give my ID drive me out of path I'd walk out handed to the flight attendant she'd, opened the door to the cockpit and I'd, step in and a captain a co-pilot a flight engineer and a seat behind the captain, called the jumpsuit where pilots company. Time now. Because pilots love to talk shop once, you picked up that jargon, it was the same conversation. Over and over and over so, I just step on board image and Bob Davis be running to Chicago on the taxi, out always, the same question so Bob how long you been with Pan Am been. Flying about seven years or position, you fly right, seat which is airline, terminology. For a co-pilot what, type of equipment are we on had that one down perfect. Matter-of-fact, whatever, they flew I didn't fly so no, problem with that, and we'd arrive in Chicago I'd, go by the Pan Am ticket counter but just enough to get the attention of the passenger, service rep excuse me having laid over here and over a year we still at the apartment, house Hilton downtown catch, the crew bus low level door throughout I go, down the Parma House Hilton walk in and on the corner of the registration, down was, a little sign said airline, cruise that, was a three-ring, binder, you've signed in referenced, your flight number showed your ID they'd, give me a key I'd stayed two or three days in pain and would be direct billed for my room and my meals I also.
Could Cashed a personal, check at the front desk because I was unemployed the airline airline had a contract, with the hotel and as a courtesy they'd cash your check but then I found out that every airline honors, every other airline, employees, personal check actually a reciprocal, agreement still practiced today in, 2017. So, at the San Francisco Airport a delta flight attendant, can walk up to an American, airline ticket counter show her ID and cash, a personal, check up to $100, and vice versa of, course when I found that out I'd go out to JFK or LAX or me I'd go to everybody, North East National KLM, Air Gramm it would take me a good eight hours stopping at every counter, in every building by the time I got all the way around the other end of the airport at least eight hours have gone by and what did you have an eight hours shift change new people so I'd go all the way back around the other. As. You know I went on to impersonate a doctor, in a Georgia hospital, for a while I took, the bar exams in Louisiana, passed the bar went to work for Attorney General PF grimian on the Civil Division of the state court where I spent about a year practicing. Law in both the job is the lawyer and the doctor no one ever doubted for a second I was not eligible, or qualified, to do so I on, my own resigned. And moved, on of, course like any criminal sooner, or later you'd get caught and I was no exception to that rule I was actually arrested, just once in my life when I was 21 years old by the French police in a small town in southern France calm. On PA the. French police were actually arresting, me on an Interpol, warrant issued by the Swedish, police who were looking for me for forgery, in Sweden, but believe that I was living in France when. The French authorities took, me into custody on that warrant they realized, I had forged checks all over France so they refused to honor the warrant and Sweden's. Request for my extradition, they. Later convicted me of forgery, and sent, me to French prison, I served. My time in a place called de maison the array the house of arrest and a small-town southern friends, called Pepin Yong Steven. Speilberg, toh Barbara Walters it was extremely, important, to me to go back to that cell to, the exact, cell he. Was in and reconstruct, it according. To the logbooks during his stay there he. Said to my amazement that was a blanket, on the floor no mattress, a hole in the floor to go to the bathroom no plumbing no, electricity, he. Said according to the logbooks I entered the prison at 198. Pounds left. The prison at a hundred and nine pounds, when, my sentence was over in France I was extradited to Sweden where, I was later convicted of forgery in a Swedish court of law and sent, to a Swedish Penitentiary. In Malmo. Sweden when. My prison term was up in Sweden US federal authorities took custody a man returned me to the United States eventually, a United, States federal, judge, in Atlanta, Georgia would, sentence me to 12 years in federal, prison I served. Four of the twelve years at a federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia when. I was 26, years old the government offered to take me out of prison on the condition I go to work with an agency of the federal government, for the remainder of my sentence, or, until, my parole had been satisfactorily. Completed, I agreed. And was. Released this, year I'm celebrating, 41, years at the FBI I have been at the bureau for more than four decades I work. Out of Washington, DC I actually, make my home in Charleston South Carolina. So every Monday I fly up to Washington, about an hour flight and I go home on Thursday. Evenings I live, in Charleston with my one and only wife of 40-plus, years and, my, three sons my. Youngest boy graduated, from the University of Beijing, in China he went on to get his master's degree, there he reads writes and speaks Chinese, fluently he. Works for a San Francisco, gaming, company called Glu Mobile he, designs gaming, games. For the Chinese market all, of his games are in Chinese and they're in their fourth generation, as mobile, games and devices, my. Middle son graduated, for University of Nevada and Las Vegas his, degree was in business he and his wife graduated.
Together And he. And her own a business in South Carolina, and they manage that business together, my. Oldest son graduated, for University, of Kansas at kayuu he went on to Loyola School of Law in Chicago, to get his law degree passed the bar in Illinois and went on to make his dad very very proud he's an FBI agent he's. Been in the bureau about 12 years he supervises, a team that deals with American, citizens kidnapped, overseas, so they're a response, team that operates, out of Quantico Virginia. As, many, of you know I had very little to do with the film. I would, have preferred not to had a movie made about my life I actually raised, my three boys in Tulsa Oklahoma in the same house for, 25, years my neighbors had no idea who, I was and, I, would have preferred it stayed that way but Steven Spielberg told Barbara Walters he felt compelled tell the world of story not. Because of what I did but because of what I'd done was, my life after, that he. Loved the redemption, side of the story, wanted the world to know the story so. In the end my family, and I were very pleased with the outcome of, the film but we thought in a couple years that would all be forgotten and move on with our life I never, dreamed that catch me if you can would go on to earn more than a billion dollars for DreamWorks and be shown over and over literally, every week on HBO, and TV and then, become a Broadway. Musical and. TV. Show so consequently, every Monday, when I come to work I have emails they, come from all over the world, someone. Who's seeing the movie for the first time watching the play at a community, theater or a high school somewhere. And they, feel compelled to write and of. Course they come from people literally, as young as 8 years old sending, those emails to people as old as 80, most, people assume I'll never read those emails or see those emails but they feel compelled, to write and they want to make a statement some, say you know. You. Were brilliant you are an absolute, genius I was, neither I was, just a child, and. A min brilliant, had it been a genius I don't, know that I would have found it necessary to break the law, in order to just simply. Survive and. While I know that people are fascinated, by what I did some 50 years ago as a teenage, boy I've, always looked upon what I did is something that was immoral illegal. Unethical, and a burden I live with literally. Every single day of my life and will. Until. My death, there. Are many who write and say well you know you were certainly gifted, that, it was I was. One of those few children that got to grow up in the world with, the daddy now, the, world is. The. World is full of fathers. But. There are very few men worthy, of. Being called daddy by, their child I had. A daddy loved. His children more. Than he loved life itself, Steven. Spielberg told Barbara Walters the Mehra research, Frank's use now without having met Frank I couldn't. Help but put his father in the film so the likes of Christopher Walken my, father was a man who had four children three boys and a daughter. Every. Night at bedtime, he'd, walk into your room he was six three he. Would drop down on one knee kiss you on the cheek pull the cover up and he put his lip up, on your earlobe and he'd whisper deep into your I love you I love, you very much he. Never ever. Missed. A night as. I. Grew older I sometimes fell, asleep before he got home but I always woke up the next morning knew. He had been back my bedside, years. Later my older brother joined me in my room temporarily. He was in the Marine Corps he was six for it played semi, pro-football for Buffalo but, my father would walk around to his bed hug him kisum.
Whisper, Nazir he loved him when. I was 16 years old I was just a child all 16. Year olds are. Just children. Much. As we'd like him to be adults, they're. Just children it. Like all children they, need their mother and they. Need their father all. Children, need their mother and their. Father all. Children, are entitled to, their. Mother and their. Father and. Though, it is not popular, to say so, divorce. Is a very devastating, thing for a child to deal with and then, have to deal with the rest of their natural life. For. Me a complete, stranger a judge told me I had to choose one parent, over the other that, was a choice of 16 year old boy could not make so. I ran how. Could I tell you my life was glamorous I cried myself to sleep till, I was 19 years old I spent, every birthday Christmas, Mother's Day Father's Day in a hotel, room somewhere in the world where. People didn't speak my language the. Only people that associated. With me were people who believed me to be their peer, 10 years older than I actually was, I never. Got to go to his senior prom High School football games, share a relationship, with someone my own age I always. Knew. I'd get caught only, a fool we. Think otherwise the. Law sometimes, sleeps, but. The law never dies I was. Caught I went, to some very bad places my. Boys have grown up asking their mother why is it that Dad gets up in the middle of the night and goes down the TV room because you know he doesn't turn the TV on he, just sits there all night that's, because they're things you can't forget things. You're not meant to forget well. I was sitting in that pitch-black selim friends my father 57. Was climbing the subway stairs of New York as he did every day he was in great physical shape he. Just happened to trip he. Reached his arm to break his fall he slipped hit his head on a railing laying. It at the bottom of the step he was dead I didn't. Know he was dead I was, thinking about him how much I couldn't wait to see him hold him hug him kiss him tell him how sorry I was, but. I never got the opportunity to. Do that I was. Very fortunate, because I was raised in a great country where, everyone gets, the second chance, I owe, my country, 800, times more than I can ever repay it over. These past four decades that. Is why I'm at the FBI today. 32. Years, after the federal court order expired. Requiring. Me to do so I have. Turned down three pardons, from three sitting presidents, of the United States because.
I Do not believe nor will, I ever believe, that a piece of paper will. Excuse, my actions, that. Only in the end my. Actions, will. 40. Plus years ago on an undercover assignment and used in Texas, I met my wife when the, assignment, was over I broke protocol, to, tell her who I really was I didn't. Have a dime to my name but. I eventually asked, her to marry me against. The wishes of her parents she, did I. Could. Sit up here and tell you that I was born again I, saw, the light prison. Rehabilitated. Me but, the truth is God. Gave me a wife she. Gave me three beautiful children she. Gave me a family and she changed my life she. And she. Alone, everything. I have everything, I've achieved Who, I am today because of love of a woman and the respect. Through boys have for their father, something. I would never ever jeopardize. There. Comes a time in all of our lifetime, we grow older and eventually we're. Fortunate enough we have children and as. Every parent knows whether your child's three months old or 38. Years old when. You lay your head on a pillow at night you're, just about to close your eyes the, last thing you think about last. Thing you're worried about are. Your children so. If you still have your mother, you. Still have your father you. Give him a hug you, give him a kiss you, tell them you love them while, you can and. To those men in the audience both young and old I would remind you what it truly is to actually, be. A man it, has absolutely nothing, to do with money. Achievements. Skills. Accomplishments. Degrees. Professions. Positions. A real. Man. Loves, his wife a real. Man is faithful to. His wife and a real. Man next to God in his country, put. His wife and his children as the most important, thing in, his life, Steven. Spielberg made a wonderful film, but I've done nothing greater, nothing, more rewarding nothing, more worthwhile nothing, makes actually brought me more peace more joy more happiness, more content, in my life than. Simply being a good husband a good, father and. What I strive to be every day of my life a great daddy god bless you and thanks for coming this morning. We we have a bunch of questions both, from. The audience as well as some people have sent in so we'll take some questions I'll, be happy to answer. Do. You have any advice for Googlers, who are feeling impostor. Syndrome, the. Insecure, feeling, that. They're not nearly, as good at their jobs, at. Their job as their colleagues believe they are and how. Did you stay confident, or did you when, you, knew you were you were in an impostor, you. Know people. Always say to me you know you were brilliant you're genius, no I wasn't, adolescent, and that, was why I was successful. I was so young that I had no fear of being caught I was, so yard that I didn't think about consequences. Everything. I did was not, premeditated. Everything. Was done by opportunity. Or by chance so. If in fact I was standing out in front of a bank in Manhattan, with a $500. Check there, was never a plan I didn't say to myself I'm, going in cashes. Check if they say this I'll do this if they do this I'll do that I just went in and did it and I. Felt that there was nothing I couldn't do I had tremendous confidence.
In Myself, but. Everything, was for a reason so, I saw that airline crew I never dreamed about getting on planes or staying in hotels around the world for free all I saw, was a uniform, and said to myself if, I had that uniform, on and I walked in a bank it would be a lot easier to cash a cheque than me walking in is just some young kid so the, whole thing was to get a uniform and do that but, then I quickly realized, the power of that uniform, how it turned from night to day no one ever said no when I walked in to cash a check even though there was no bank account there or, anything else all they saw was a uniform, they didn't see me and, I realized very earlier on the power of that uniform. And then I realized, I had gone to the TWA, ticket counter just like he showed in the movie I was, going to purchase an airline, ticket and the ticket agent said, to me are you riding for free are you buying the ticket and I, said riding for free yeah you armed the jump see and I. Learned about the jump seats and then I flew around the world for free everything I did I did by, chance. I've moved into an apartment complex, in, Atlanta, I said it was a doctor, because I didn't want to write down airline. Pilot they were looking for me with, that airline pilot, so I said it was a doctor. I said, pediatrician. Because was a singles, complex, and there were only single people living there and then, I met a doctor who lived there and then he took me up to the hospital and I met people so I ended up at the hospital, I dated, a flight attendant, whose father was the Attorney General, in Louisiana, I told, her that I had gone to law school but I never practiced law instead I wanted to be a pilot and got, furloughed, from the airline so she, introduced. Me to her dad and I went to work everything was all these opportunities, but always the confidence, that, I could pull it off and that that, became just. From age but, if you believe that you're good at what you do and you, strive to be good at what you do you don't need to worry about what other people think you need to be able to understand, that you have your own confidence, that you can do whatever it is you're required to do and other. People will see that confidence, in you the minute you start doubting, yourself other, people will see the that you're doubting yourself and that becomes a weakness, in your personality, they always want to be confident, and everything you do that you can do it you can get it done you'll find a way to get it get, it done, obviously. Technology has evolved quite a bit since you were going, around and things like that would somebody be able to accomplish something, similar today even with. Yeah. You know I get asked that a lot actually, it's sorry, to say but 4,000. Times easier today than when I did it, technology. Breeds crime it, always has and it, always will and there will always be people willing to use technology. In a, self-serving. Way. So, you know I always use the example that, when I used to forge checks, I needed, a Heidelberg printing press it took me about 12 months to learn that press, that. Was a million dollar printing press it was 90 feet long 18 feet, high it, required three journeyman, operators, to operate it so I bill scaffoldings, on either sides of the press so I could eliminate the other two positions, and because I was a teenager, I was able to run the length of that press but, there were color separations. There were negatives, there were chemicals, you had to work with there were plates you had to make there, was typesetting, involved, today. One, just opens a laptop, and decides. To forge an counterfeit, a check they first bring up a diagram of a check with a little security background, in it and then. They go and look on who is checked in and afford so if I'm gonna Forge for example into its check, I go, to their company's. Website, capture, their logo and put it up on the corner of the left part top of the check I put, in their corporate address I might, put some stuff in the background and, step and repeat patterns, or whatever it is I'm designing and in, 15 minutes I have a four color beautiful. Check prettier, than the real check they use up on my website now. In the old days you de would have said to me you know this. Check you printed from Pan Am I have to admit pretty, awesome it's, amazing for, color it, looks terrific, but. Let me ask you this how do you know where Pan Am banks I have no idea where they're bank so I'm just making up a bank's name Chase. Manhattan Bank One, Chase Plaza New York you know how, do you know what the account number is I have no ideas I'm just making up a bunch of numbers, how. Do you know who the authorized, signer is I don't know I'm just signing somebody's, Joe, black whatever name on that check but, we live in a way too much information, world today so once I forge in to its check every.
Forger, Calls their victim, twice. Because. Every forger will tell you a victim will tell me everything I need to know so. When he calls he would have simply said like to speak to someone in accounts, receivables, sure one moment counts. Receivables, can I help you I was, getting ready to pay an invoice you sent us but we prefer to wire you the funds just needed wiring instructions yes, so we bank with Bank of America or account numbers 1 7, 6 8 5 3 they tell you right on the phone you, can call any company, and just tell them you're gonna wire the money they're going to tell you where they bank on what street their account number but, you need on the check so I captured the bank's logo I put it on the check up with the mickr line down on the bottom and I hang up and call back into. A corporation, gonna help you yeah I'd like to speak to someone in your corporate. Communications. Sure, one moment corporate. Communications, can help you yeah, wonder if you be so kind as to mail me a copy of your annual report sure, send you one out today on page, three is a signature, of the chairman of the board the CEO the CFO. White, glossy paper black ink camera-ready, art scan, it digitize it put it on the check, the, technologies, made it much much easier when, we talk about IDs. Making. An airline ID today would be very simple with the technology, that's available. Today. So all of those things are a lot easier as, I, used to say that would be a little more difficult for me to get on an aircraft today, posing, as a pilot, but if you ever go to the airport and watch the crews go through the airport they just simply hold up a card and they go through the airport that anyone, could make that card with today's software and technology. That's available to anybody so a technology. Certainly made a lot easier, so that's why we are constantly making, technology to counter the, use of technology, by criminals, and to make it more difficult for them to convert, that technology, into a negative idea. In, your candid opinion did, Leonardo, DiCaprio, and Tom Hanks do justice, t-to. Urine, Joseph, cheese respective. Roles in. The, movie yeah. You know I'm I'm not a big movie person so I don't I've, watched very little television this is most of my life not just something I took up even as a kid I didn't watch a lot of television I, don't watch a lot of television now, and I certainly very rarely go to movies, and so. When. It was announced that Leo head was, the person picked to play the part I really knew nothing about him my. Sons weren't too happy that it was Leo but, I didn't, I didn't know anything about him so I went to the movies and saw street gangs of New York and i. Said to myself sitting, there how would this person portray. A person 16. Years old he, had a beard, he was at the time he filmed, that movie was about 27, 28 years old I thought. No one's gonna believe this guy's 16, but because I'd never saw the script I didn't know if maybe Spielberg, was making the character, a lot older, and not a teenager, now, when the movie came out it was quite amazing that Leo starts, out in the film at 14, then he's 16, and he's 18, and he's 21, he, is an amazing character actor, and he took the role and he did an amazing job of playing the role Tom.
Hanks's Character, was actually named Joe Shea SH, EA he was an Irishman from Boston, Joe, Shea was my supervisor, at the FBI after I came out of prison I answer, directly to him he and I were friends for thirty years until, his death I've, written five books on, crime the last book I wrote stealing, your life I dedicated, that book to him and our 30 year relationship but. He was an Irishman from Boston in which Tom Hanks, he didn't want his real name used, so Tom Hanks used the name of an old football player and took. That name, call Hanratty, but, if you were watching the screen for me it was like watching him he looked like him he sounded, like him he had his mannerisms, they, did an amazing job both, of them and portraying, the parts of real people that were still, living at that time. So. First of all as a father your statement. Was just time each tearing. So I can say anything about that I mean that's totally practical, with the equifax, hacks and the anthem hacks that everyone in this room has been probably, affected, by one of the other is. There anything we can do as citizens, to. Protect ourselves or, is it a lost cause no, I'll tell you what to do but let me explain this to you that is where I when I went to the FBI forty-one, years ago I worked undercover for. A long period of time then, I went into the field and dealt with counterfeits, and forgeries, embezzlement. Financial. Crimes in the last 20 years I've dealt with only cyber related, crimes. So, I spend, most of my time with breaches, I have worked every breach back, to t.j.maxx, 15. Years ago and this, is what I've learned first. Of all every. Single breach, every. Breach occurs, because, somebody, in that company, did. Something, they weren't supposed to do or, somebody. In that company, failed to do something, they. Were supposed, to do hackers. Do. Not cause breaches. People. Do and. Every. Breach comes down to that so in the case of Equifax, they didn't update their infrastructure, they didn't fix the patches, that should have put in place they, were very negligent, and what, they were doing so, the hacker waited, for the door to open so. When you interview a hacker the hacker will say to you look I can't get into Chase Bank the truth is they spend about a half a billion dollars a year on technology every, 12 months they. Spend a half a billion dollars of their profit, on putting. Technology and software in their bank to keep me out. However, they, employ, 200,000. People worldwide, all. I have to do is wait for one, of those people. To, do something they weren't supposed to do or fail to do what, they were supposed to do and that'll, open the door for. Me to get in. When. You steal, credit card numbers like Home Depot target. At t.j.maxx that's, stealing credit cards and debit card information that. Has a very short, short shelf life so you have to get rid of it very very quickly but. If I steal your name your. Social security number and your, date of birth you, can't change your name you. Can't change your social security number you. Can't change your date of birth so. Those people warehouse. That data for. Two to three years so we, won't even see that surface, for. At least a couple of years before some of that will start to surface the data that was stolen whatever. Number they start with I think was 143. Million then it became 146. Million it was a million, driver's, licenses now it's ten point six million driver's, licenses, all. Breaches start with very low numbers, before they let you know the actual true number so it's probably about two hundred and forty million pieces. Of information that was stolen but. I remind, people all the time that they're, going to warehouse that data so, buying one year credit monitoring service, is absolutely, worthless because, nothing's going to happen in a year and if, you really analyze. Equifax. They were very unethical in what, they did they, thought to themselves first, of all they sold a bunch of stock knowing, that it was going to come out that was worse but. Then they stat there and said how do we make a profit from this was our mistake but how we turn this around into a profit. So, they sat there and said what we'll do is we'll, offer millions, and millions of people one year credit, monitoring service, for free they'll. Sign up and in a year from now we'll simply, say that data hasn't really surfaced yet you, need to be enrolled automatically, into our program, which is $20.00, a month so they're going to make millions and millions of dollars with automatic.
Enrollment. Into their, their program. If, you've been a Bri if you have been a subject, of that breach there's only two things you can do and two things only one, you can freeze your credit. Each date varies, about that so some states freezing, your credit is free other states there's a fee associated with, it typically. Ten dollars to freeze it eighteen, dollars to unfreeze, it ten dollars to freeze it again, so. For the last two years I've testified before, Congress, and you go to my website at Abagnale calm you'll see me testifying, before Congress, telling them that they, need to put, a federal law across the 50 states that allow anyone to freeze their credit at any time and unfreeze, it and anytime there should be no reason that there should be a fee associated with it because, then that becomes a deterrent, to people actually. Freezing. Their. Credit, so. You can freeze your credit that's, one thing you can do and then you unfreeze it if you need it if. It's not too much of a hassle and then the only other thing is to monitor your credit so I've used a credit monitoring service, since 1992. So, for about 25, years I've been using, a service I think they charge me like 12, dollars a month the, reason I like it I I can monitor my own credit I don't need them all they've given me for that 12 dollars is the ability to go on my keyboard and a few strokes and bring, up my credit reports, instantly, on my screen and up, on my screen comes, all three reports. Equifax. Experian TransUnion, at. The top is my score for the moment of that day what, my credit score is at those three agencies then. I can scroll down and look at my credit and I can say to myself you know I paid this car off like four months ago they still show that I owe money to this bank I'll, correct, that and I, can go all the way down and see every inquiry made on my credit that's what we call hard and soft in choirs and, that's, your employer checking, your credit the IRS checking your credit your, insurance company, checking your credit or a credit card you applied for and they're, checking your credit so. I really don't need them but, for fee, they're. Also monitoring, my credit as well so, they're checking my credit and they're letting me know in real time if someone attempts to use my social, security number to get a job open a bank account or, whatever the case may be so to me it's worth, using. That now. One, other tip I'll give you is I don't own a debit card I've, never owned one I've never allowed my threes, to. Possess one certainly. And truly the worst financial tool, ever, given to the American consumer. So. A long time ago I asked, myself a simple question, how would I remove, 99.9. Percent of my personal, liability. Like. That where. They really don't to worry about all these things, so. I use the safest form of payment that exists on the face of the earth and that is a credit. Card. Credit. Card Visa. MasterCard. American Express Discover card not, debit, credit, but. Credit card every. Day of my life I spend, their money I don't spend my money my money sits in a money market account it earns interest actually nobody knows where it is because it's not exposed to anybody to find it it's just sitting there I go, to the dry cleaner I give my card I pick up the groceries I give my card I put, fuel in my boat on the weekend I use my card I pay the marina to keep my boat in the water all year long they put the rent on my credit. Card I travel. All over the world while. I wait to get reimbursed, I use my credit card if I need euros I go to the ATM machine I use my credit card I'm not going to use my debit card to get euros overseas, or pounds. And Great Britain and, every. Day I use my card and then if, I pay the bill in full a part of the bill my credit score goes up so, I'm building credit, while I'm using that credit card and if. Tomorrow and I'll do everything to protect my information, but if tomorrow someone. Gets my card number and charges. 1, million. Dollars. On my, credit card by federal law my. Liability, is zero I have no liability so, yes I love to shop online I don't use a special, card I just use my credit card if they don't deliver the merchandise if, they deliver it and it's broken if, the host site I went to was fictitious, to begin with I have no zero or less zero liability, when.
You Use your debit card every, time you reach for you're exposing the money in your account, the only person's going to get robbed as you when. You use your debit card you could use it for the next 50 years 20. Times a day you will not raise your credit score by. That much and of. Course when you use your debit card you. Are liable, up to a certain amount and it takes a while in, order to get that debit card fixed so when we do post investigations. At breaches, and we, say to someone, on your incident what happened well I was in target but I used a Visa card so I don't know nothing I got a they canceled my card the next day two, days later FedEx, sent me a new card and that was the last I heard about it what about you and, I used a debit card there that took three thousand, dollars out of my checking account it took me two months to get my money back why they said they were investigating, I had to pay my rent had kids tuition everything. I couldn't pay it because they had my money so. I do it for that so I had three sons that went off to college and I said to them I'm not giving you a debit card I've actually. Applied for a credit card in your name so it's, your card of course you're 18 you have no credit, so I guaranteed, the card so. As a guarantee, of the card three, things take place one. The, bill comes to me and I'm responsible for the bill so if you spend a lot of time in the bar I'm going to know that too, I set. The limit on the card so whatever I want you to spend each month is while you're at school I'll set that limit third, every month that I pay the bill goes on your credit so. By the time you get out of college you should be looking at a credit score of about eight hundred you, want to buy a car buy a house buy a condo, you're, not going to need me to do that all three of my sons came out of college with grades, scores, of the round 800 one. Of the best things you can do for your kids is to teach them to learn. To use credit early, on and build credit in their name credit. Is a very important, thing thirty, years ago it only meant whether you got the car you got the house today everything is based on your credit the company hires you they're going to check your credit if, you buy auto insurance is gonna check your credit you buy life insurance is, gonna check your credit everything. Is based on your credit so you want to make sure that you maintain a, good credit and it's one of the best things you can do with your kids. Question. I wanted. To ask you more about the, FBI specifically. And kind of, hiring. And how you got in there is such an interesting story you. Know when I was younger I was really interested in you know working for the FBI worked, in fraud, and security. If. My boss is watching I'm very happy where I am right now but. I, couldn't. Believe how, difficult, it was to try, and get into public service I thought you know, you, know I was, willing to take a pay cut I was willing to move anywhere I was willing to do anything and, it. Was difficult I mean I was in touch with people at the FBI and they were super, nice and very helpful but I just couldn't believe that you know the background, checks and there's, no available jobs and you have to keep emailing me and oh you, don't have a lot of griot that's, not gonna matter and you, know again I ended up in a great spot so I'm happy but when. People ask me about public, service and working for these organizations I really, don't the. FBI is extremely. Tough, we have about 13,000. Agents, and, about 25,000. Support people who support the agent analysts, and things of that nature. Currently. We, take one in, every. 10,000. Applicants, to be an agent so, it is extremely difficult. To get in the FBI so. Just to share the story with you my oldest boy when he was about 14, I used to take my kids to the FBI. Academy which, is on a marine military base in Quantico, Virginia because I like to shoot guns on the range and I would take them up there when I was teaching class, they would be, out there with the instructor, shooting.
On The, range and I remember, distinctly. Coming. Back off the base which takes you about 20 minutes to get from the Academy, off to the base and when, we were riding through the base he said to me no dad this. Is what I want to do I want to become an, FBI, agent, I saw that's great son but you know they keep that in mind and so he graduated, from high school he said to me I really want to become a FBI. Agent I said that's great you know you got to go to college so, he went to school at University, of Kansas got his undergraduate, he. Always, thought he'd change his mind my. Wife always had a Christmas party for all the agents, until so we had about 200 FBI agents, in the state and, every. Christmas they would be at our home with their family, and he. Would go talk to all of them and Special, Agent in Charge who's, in charge of the entire state, he, would say to him yeah my son tried to get in but they. Turned him down he's, and he explained, to him that senators, sons have been turned down former, president's sons have been turned down has, nothing to do with, anything other than you and I kept emphasizing that, to him but, I kept thinking he changed his mind so when, he graduated from undergraduate school I said Sonia I would recommend you go to law school I have no desire to be a lawyer I said I understand, but if you really want to pursue the FBI and that would put you up a little higher and the, chances of getting in you went to Loyola School of Law I graduated, from law school the bureau requires, you pass the bar so he took the bar in Illinois pass the bar and then he went through the year-long process, of the process, that takes to apply to the bureau and. I got very worried because I'd say to my wife that you know I'm a little concerned because first. Of all I don't know if someone in management would like the fact that my son is an FBI agent, or, maybe someone, in management would look at it and say his dad has done so much for him for, them we need to look at his son it had absolutely nothing, to do, with that was all about him. And I. Always tell him every day he's living his life's dream so. He's he, got, it but it is very very tough, so when, the bureau came to me and they just a few years ago celebrated, their 100th anniversary. They did a big coffee table book and they talked about me in there as being, the only person they ever did that with. The. Whole thing to the bureau back then the director was Clarence Kelly who was the director of the bureau at that time he. Wanted the ability because he could say to me okay, you, are a lieutenant. In the Army, you have been in the Army this, many years your expertise, is this missile, I need. You to learn all of this in two weeks and I'm sending you to this base and I, want you to find out what's going on in this particular area, he. Knew that no matter what assignment, he gave me under cover I could go do it whether it was a scientist, at a lab in New Mexico whether, it was a doctor, in a hospital he.
Knew That I could get away with it make it believe people believe that I was that person without, any doubt and that's how they, used me, I. Think. That was their initial thing, and then of course when my time was up and again keep in mind that when I got that offer to me it was just an opportunity I, looked at it well opportunity, to get out of jail I I'm. Not going to sit here and tell you I was a change person that, I was a different person and when I went into prison I just, saw that as an opportunity to get out of prison so I was going to do it but. Then I you get involved with the men and women the FBI who obviously, it's, probably, the most ethical people who ever meet in your life they, have tremendous character, love of country love of family that. Kind of wears off on you and I. Started, to realize that you know I've met my wife and, I was becoming a husband, I'd take care of my wife had take care of children, fatherhood. All those things is what really changed my life wasn't, that I was rehabilitated. Or those, things changed my life so if it started out more as an opportunity, so, when my time was over and the court said his court order this ceases, to be he's free to do whatever he wants to do I made. The choice to stay there only because I thought, that I could. Bring. A lot to the bureau so the, bureau was very smart they realized very early on that I wouldn't be accepted, very well and so there was a great scene in the movie where Steven, Spielberg. Obviously. Knew that I was very very difficult for the agents, you keep in mind now this is back when there were no women agents no blacks, no Hispanics, everybody was a white agent, and they either graduated, from Harvard or they graduated, from Yale and they, all came from very good families and. It was a totally, different environment 40, years ago so, they all have really tunnel, vision once a criminal always a criminal so, they were not very very, happy with the fact that I came there, so he showed that scene of me walking in the office and that. The way people looked. At me that took years for me to turn that around took years for me to build their credibility. And of course in the first part of my career was out in the field so, as undercover so they really were dealing, with me so. When I finished, working on the cover that the, director, then simply, said you know what he needs to go to the Academy and teach class so, that every agent who comes to the Academy, they.
Will He will be their instructor, in one of their courses and they, will all know him so I've taught at the academy now, for well over 35, years I taught my son when he went through the Academy, three, generations of, agents, that, helped a great deal because they learned who I was early on knew who I was and that tamed, a lot of that but took a lot of lot of a lot of work to turn that around and build that credibility. I'm. Curious to know whether or not you continued. To fly even. After you were released from jail and, working. At the Bureau, as the, movie suggests or if that was a bit of Hollywood, in Belgium now you know when people ask me and, I saw, the movie in a movie theater, I've only seen the movie twice I've seen that trailer a thousand, times but I've only seen the movie twice so, when the media asked, me what I thought about the movie and what was right and what was wrong I said you know well first of all I have two brothers and a sister he portrayed portrayed, me as an only child in. Real life my mother never remarried as a scene in the movie where she's remarried as a little girl that didn't, really happen in. The real life I never saw my father after, I ran away in, the movie they keep having him come back to Christopher Walken and the film was nominated for the Academy Award for that role. As my father, that, didn't really happen I escaped. Off the aircraft, but I escaped, off the aircraft through the kitchen galley where they bring the food and stuff onto the plane and there they had me escape, through, the toilet my. Wife kind of looked at me said you didn't go through the toilet, yes I know honey go through the toilet. So. I thought he stayed very close, to the story but. Pretty. Much all of that where he was he was very concerned, about being accurate, first of all because it was a it was the first time he made a movie about a real person living. Second. The Bureau had an information, officer on the set for all the SH all the shooting, of the entire film to make sure that what he said about the FBI and what the comments, they made and all, that was accurate the agent, there was an agent from our information, officer on the on the, set and then of course is he. Later said I really got most of my information from, those were three retired, agents, because they said they their. Notes were so particular. And so accurate he said that when, I filmed, the scene in the hotel room I had, scripted, it and so. We're sitting there and I said read me your notes he said I entered the room with my gun pulled I heard, someone in the bathroom I ordered. Them to come out of the bathroom and this, is what happened, he, basically loved. His notes better than his script so he used his notes for the southern, film so I thought he did, a good job of staying very, very. Accurate, the movie I just, make a final comment you having. To deal with cyber now I'd like to write about crimes. The future, so. I always. Used to write to my class about. What, will we investigate, five years from now what, will an agent be doing five years from now and unfortunately. There's. Good news and there's bad news first, of all the good news we will be doing away with passwords. In the next 24, months passwords, will leave the world there, will be no more passwords, there. Is a new technology called true Sona that's T ru s. Ona. Stands, for true persona it. Is a company in Scottsdale, Arizona that, created, a technology for the CIA which. We have used now for the last few years that, technology. And, I was an advisor on that technology, for the CIA so, I'm an advisor and bringing it to the commercial world but. It was the ability for an agent to send data back. From the, field such as Afghanistan on, their iPhone and that. Langley, would. Know 100%, that, is. The agent on the other end to 100%, identify.
The. Person on the other end of the device that's. A level for security so, that they, basically said what if we brought this to level 2 security. And, we did away with passwords. So, immediately, when they announced that Microsoft, gave them 10 million dollars and said I'm in develop. It so Microsoft is going to use it on all their gaming all their access to their computers, etc. We. Now have the ability to identify who the person is on the other end of that device. And when you go to their website a true Sona they, actually show you how it's done so they demo. Videos there there are three or four minutes long let's show you how it's done and that's, great passports, are stack of passwords, or stagnant they should have been gone a long time ago, it's why we have most of the problems that we have today so, it is very important, that we get rid of passwords, in just in case you didn't know if we, take a bank like a Bank of America they, spend about six million dollars a month in their call center, resetting. Passwords cost. Them six million dollars a month so that would save that bank a hundred million dollars a year to eliminate, the use of passwords. So that's, the good part of it and I think that'll eventually do away with social security numbers you'll, still have a number of nine to you for, the government purpose but when I go buy a car I go, to the doctor I don't have to give them a number because they already know who I am, through my device so I won't have to provide a social security number so, I think that's a good part but, I do believe that cyber, it up until this point in time, has, been used for financial crimes or gathering, data and information. Which, is of value what's. Going to happen is we're going to see cyber very quickly now turn very black. So. We have the ability as you know to. Basically, shut, someone's pacemaker, off but, we have to be within 35, feet of them we test these device at Quantico, all the time so. As long as I walk up within 35 feet of you I take control of any bodily device you, have on you so if I want to assassinate you, I want, to speed it up take it down I can do that but. I believe that in five years you'll be able to do that from five thousand, miles away. We. Have the ability now that we test that we can chase a car down the interstate we got to get up with them thirty five feet of the vehicle we take over the vehicle we, shut the motor off we. Lock the person in the car we lock the power window so they can't open them we, can turn on their airbag, again. Five years from now you'd be able to do that five, thousand miles away, so. Yes our electrical, grid uses. A terrorist, tool the, ability to shut down an entire system, shut, down an entire banking, system, those. Are all the things that unfortunately, we'll be dealing with in the next four, or five years. As cyber starts,