If you’ve seen the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Catch Me If You Can, then you know who Frank Abagnale is, and why he’s a good guy to listen to when it comes to protecting yourself from fraudsters – – he is (or was) the best, after all. Abagnale is using his powers for good these days, and his latest book is “Scam Me If You Can,” which offers simple strategies on how to stop scammers in their tracks.
As one of the most daring con men, forgers, imposters, and escape artists in history, Abagnale donned a pilot’s uniform and copiloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks — all before he was twenty-one. So, you know he knows what he’s talking about when he says carrying these things in your wallet is a big mistake.
In his list of “things you should not carry around,” Abagnale suggests bringing only the check you need and no more, along with the following check usage tips (millennials, take heed:):
If I absolutely need to use one, I use an inexpensive gel pen, because that ink can’t be washed off. Look for pens with specially formulated ink that becomes trapped in paper. This helps prevent criminal check washing and other document alterations.
Second, I only write checks that go directly to the addressee. For example, it’s usually safe to write a check to your insurance company. But if you write a check to a specific store, you know that more than one person will see it before it gets deposited.
Your check contains all kinds of information (e.g., account and routing numbers, your name and address) that can be used to steal your money. You may also be asked to write your driver’s license number on the check, along with your date of birth. Your signature is on the check, too.
Anyone from the clerk to other workers and even couriers can see the face of the check and potentially gain access to your bank account.
His full list of things not to carry is as follows:
- Too many credit or debit cards: “The fewer debit and credit cards you carry with you, the fewer you’ll have to freeze or cancel should your wallet disappear.”
- Social Security Card: “When was the last time you needed to pull out your Social Security card? A fraudster can easily use that number to open a new credit card…”
- Checks: “If you know you have to write a check, take one — and only one — with you. Check fraud is just too easy to pull off.”
- Bank deposit slips: “These contain exactly the same information as your checks and are a key that unlocks your bankbook.”
- Gas station and ATM receipts: “Even items considered detritus by most people have scraps of usable information, such as the last four digits of your credit card, which can be used to help reconstruct entire account numbers.”
These are some helpful and useful tips from Abagnale as consumers should do as much as they can to protect themselves from being defrauded. Similarly, banks should be doing all they can to protect their consumers, especially from check fraud. Utilizing image analysis to validate the fields on a check including, payee, check stock, date out-of-range, and amount will detect counterfeits, forgeries and alterations before its hits your customer’s bank accounts.
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