Catch Me If You Can
Commentary by Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
The keynote speaker at this year’s Uconnect Conference in Nashville, Tenn. was Frank Abagnale Jr., whose life story was the basis of the 2002 DreamWorks movie, Catch Me If You Can, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
Mr. Abagnale told the story of how he walked out on his parent’s divorce hearing at the age of sixteen and began forging checks. He went on to impersonate an airline pilot and pediatric surgeon, finally ending up spending time in prison in France, Switzerland and the United States. Once out of prison, he joined the FBI where he worked for 30 years with the agent who had pursued him all over the world.
It was very interesting how Mr. Abagnale pulled off his impersonations.
To become an airline pilot, he located the manufacturer of the uniforms and then went to the ID manufacturer to seek a sample ID of himself that he could use to make a proposal for switching manufacturers at his own company. He used the fake materials not to actually fly a plane, but to take free trips on the planes of other airlines.
He became a doctor by pretending to be a pediatrician when he moved into a singles apartment complex. A newly divorced neighboring doctor recommended him for an administrative position at his hospital, so he never actually operated on anyone but was able to take the position.
At first I could not make the connection between Mr. Abagnale and the conference. Then I began to consider what he had done. In today’s age of sophisticated identification systems and electronic surveillance, could someone duplicate his feats of 35 year’s ago?
We read about identity theft and impersonations all the time, but we don’t hear about the ones that go undetected. I am sure it has become more difficult but as long as there are human beings in the process, dishonest people will be able to pull off this type of scam.
Moderator’s Comment: Do you think it is still possible for someone to change his or her identity despite all the new identification systems we have?
– Bill Bittner – Moderator