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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Protecting consumers against identity theft and hacking by cybercriminals into their financial and medical records should be a higher priority by the government, said Frank Abagnale, the infamous con artist who has been an FBI consultant for nearly four decades.
The breaches into federal government agencies such as the IRS and Medicare are occurring on a regular basis, and the losses are exceeding billions of dollars as a result of identity theft and fraudulent claims.
“When you follow the money, you find the money goes back into the marketplace for human and drug trafficking, child pornography and much more hideous crimes,” he said. “Most of these crimes could be easily prevented in any other marketplace.”
Identity theft is the number one crime committed against consumers with over 15 million victims annually or one victim every two seconds in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Immortalized in the movie, Catch Me If You Can, Abagnale told a crowd during a speech in Houston sponsored by the AARP last week that his exploits as a con artist is a burden he will always carry. After running away as a 16-year old when a judge told him to decide which parent to live with upon their divorce, he learned to survive by becoming a mastermind in identity theft as a check forger and convinced people he was an airline pilot and even a doctor.
A renowned expert on the subject of identity theft, Abagnale is an instructor at the FBI Academy and has written five books and given thousands of lectures over 40 years as a consultant to major companies such as banks on embezzlement and fraud.
“Had I been brilliant and been a genius, I don’t know that I would have found it necessary to break the law in order to simply survive,” he said. “I’ve always looked upon what I did as something that was immoral, illegal and unethical.”