Attendees at the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) received fraud prevention advice from scam artist-turned-Federal Bureau of Investigations educator Frank Abagnale, keynote speaker at the 2022 FGIA Hybrid Annual Conference. Abagnale, whose life inspired the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” worked several fraud scams in his youth and was eventually asked by the FBI to teach prevention and verification tactics to agents, which he has done for 46 years.

Frank Abagnale

“My philosophy is: prevention, verification and education,” said Abagnale. “Education is a powerful tool to preventing crime.”

He said the pandemic led to increased identity theft losses and “romance” scams.

“We saw record compromises or breaches in 2020,” Abagnale continued. “Every breach occurs because someone did something they weren’t supposed to do, or they failed to do something they were supposed to do, creating an open door for a hacker.”
Scammers can use social media to gain information to create more custom and sophisticated phishing scams. “Phishing emails are nothing more than social engineering,” he said.
Abagnale advised participants to look for “soft spots” in their offices and homes. “There are soft spots everywhere,” he said. “Criminals are not looking for challenges, but opportunities. They will find soft spots in your building or home. And now everything is connected to the Internet.”
Passwords, Abagnale predicted, will inevitably be replaced, as they are a significant liability to security.

“I hate passwords,” he said. “Sixty-three percent of network intrusions are due to compromised user passwords.”
With social media, Abagnale recommended thinking twice about what you post. “Never tell anyone or share your date of birth or where you were born,” he said. “What you say on Facebook stays on Facebook. And Facebook puts together everything from your gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.”
Abagnale offered three tips for how to protect yourself:
1. Don’t just shred old files. Destroy records with a security microcut shredder, specifically.
2. Freeze credit. Once it is frozen, no one can see it without permission. “Everyone should do this,” he said. “But you should still use a credit monitoring system.”
3. Don’t use a debit card. “Credit cards are safest,” said Abagnale. “With credit cards, you are never using your own money, unlike with a debit card. Your credit card company will reimburse you for fraudulent charges. If you use Venmo or Zelle, back it with a credit card, not a debit card.”