Though the film “Catch Me If You Can,” became hugely popular when it hit theaters in 2002, many people don’t know much about the real Frank W. Abagnale. We’re aware of the dazzling life he lived impersonating pilots, doctors and lawyers; he cashed fraudulent checks from a very early age, making off with millions before he was caught by the FBI. But what about what happened before he became famous, and after he was apprehended?
Below, we talk about some of the most interesting facts you didn’t know about America’s favorite conman.
1. Abagnale learned about flying by pretending to be a student
Though he actually could have been in high school at the time, Abagnale simply pretended to be one. He told PanAm he was working on a story for his student newspaper and they ate it up. The goal was to learn as much about flying as he could in an effort to best impersonate a pilot later on.
2. At the end, Abagnale decided to leave crime and settle down in France
His past, however, caught up with him when an old girlfriend recognized his face from a wanted poster. She turned him in and he served time in both France and Sweden before being transferred to a U.S. prison.
3. The former conman has become a celebrated author and consultant
Though the movie touched on what happened after Abagnale was caught, much of his life has since been devoted to identifying and catching perpetrators just like him. He worked with the FBI for more than four decades, published multiple books on identity theft and consulted for countless international corporations on fraud prevention.
4. Abagnale escaped prison before his trial began
It was pure coincidence, though, that first contributed to his escape. While he waited for his U.S. trial to start, Abagnale was housed in the Federal Detention Center in Atlanta, Georgia. There he was mistaken for an undercover prison system inspector and was awarded special privileges. He managed to contact a friend who posed as his fiancé and then as an FBI agent. He slipped custody when they arranged an unsupervised meeting outside the prison — when they swiftly took off.
Frank W. Abagnale lived a fast-paced, crazy life before he was caught at just 21 years old. Since then, he’s devoted his time to helping others so they don’t fall victim to conmen like him.
If you want to learn more about how you can protect yourself or your loved ones, register for the AARP Kentucky Fraud Watch Telephone Town Hall. Teaming up with the AARP Fraud Watch Network and AARP Kentucky, Abagnale will be giving a free, interactive presentation on how to avoid identity theft on October 12th.